Addiction with EBL

Humans see pattern everywhere, even when they don’t really exist. Usually there is no pattern, just coincidence. Sometimes the patterns collapse into meaning.

I am not prepared to say whether my experience this week was coincidence or some kind of spooky world consciousness kind of thing. I was feeling frazzled. I was tired and a little worried that by agreeing to take on a project on top of my existing workload (which is already out of control), I was losing the battle with my over-active God-complex.  I was open to a new way of looking at things.

I agreed to take on a project that is in an almost desperate state. One that is likely to fail. One that could be damaging to my mental equilibrium. I agreed to work extra hours instead of reducing the time built up during last year’s marathon effort delivering a major OJEU tender and system migration to unreasonable timescales. Yes, I agreed to take on a Death March Project.

I can’t resist being told that no one else can do it, that no one else has the skills / experience  / capability. How stupid am I? I bet you never knew people fell for that line of nonsense.

“EBL saves the world again!” scream the headlines. “Without her we would all be lost!”

It’s official. I am insane. But there are those words: almost, likely to, could be. I grew up watching too many superhero cartoons.

I got back home after being away for a hectic week at work, and decided to relax by catching up on some blog posts. First of all I found that Rohan7Things was expounding wisely on self-discipline and Internet use.

“That’s good stuff,” I thought, frittering time away by using the Internet. “That’s what I need to do – after all, I have cut back on my blogging, so that’s all good. Hah, this stuff is easy!”

Who am I kidding? How deluded can I be? Pretty deluded it seems.

Next I read Rarasaur, who fell off a wagon. Even the mighty Dino of the Blogosphere, the Blogosaurus herself, has limits. Who knew?

I looked at my life. It snarled at me.

There I was thinking I was doing well because I resigned from Governors. Already I have been told I am about to be asked to pick up some jobs at our local Quaker meeting, and already, without knowing what they are, I know I will say yes.

My reasoning is this: all work and no play makes EBL a dull girl. If all I do is work, then I don’t enjoy my life. I need to be involved in activities outside work for balance. So it’s good to take on those jobs, right?

We-e-e-llllll….

Let’s say a friend has given up some voluntary work because it was too demanding and she had been doing it for nine years and felt stale and tired and wanted a break. This is all hypothetical, you understand. This friend has a fairly busy job and is often away from home. She works quite long hours, although not excessive hours like junior doctors. No more than 50 a week. Quite reasonable really; usually only 45 in fact. Civilised hours.

Now she has been asked to take on a trusteeship and another role in her community, on top of her other voluntary commitments for fundraising.

Did I mention she is also a carer? Well, she is.

Then there is her desire to pursue, in a completely selfish manner, some trivial hobbies for her own amusement. She had a rota for those but it has fallen apart recently.

She has just agreed to take on a Death March Project.

I have to admit that looking at it, it doesn’t sound so clever. Even so, I suspect I will still say yes.

My father died of stress in his sixties. I need to take that seriously.

But I will still say yes.

Only the good die young. What’s the point in living longer if you do nothing with the time?

Perhaps the first step to dealing with addiction is to recognise the problem and admit to being powerless over it. What I need is a Twelve Step Programme for Workaholism, like this one here. I scored 15 / 20 on the test, which is a bit scary.

So that’s another project to do – dealing with it.

How common is this, and is it because of the period of change our societies are going through? Or am I just a hopeless case?

Namaste.

 

The Knitted Monet Mind

Ah, Monet – the go-to artist for the ocularly-challenged. I love Monet; everything is fuzzy and uncertain, just like life. I like Turner too; these are my people!

Rarasaur’s latest Prompt for the Promptless introduces us to the phrase “a total Monet.”

“A total Monet” is an expression used to describe someone or something that looks good from far away, but up close is a total mess.

My mother always knitted. She knitted my jumpers when I was little, right up until I started secondary school, when you had to wear school uniform and contend with raging hormones that required you to fit in by wearing something more fashionable. She knitted her own jumpers after that, rather sadly, but understanding a girl’s need to be accepted. I suspect in fact it was a relief as she had also gone back to work and had little time and my treason meant she could concentrate on her embroidery.

Still, she always had some knitting in progress and as time went by, and she began her slide into senility, this at least did not change.  She moved into sheltered housing near where we lived and started knitting granny stripes, sewed them into small blankets for keeping old ladies’ knees warm, and gave them to the Age UK charity shop where they became a local hit. As time went on and dementia ate her brain she still knitted; she still does, although now without knowing what she is knitting any more.

I was clearing out some of her cupboards a while ago and discovered a haul of knitted strips which she had never sewn up, so I decided that as she had made the effort to knit them I would make the effort to sew them. I took them all into my living room to sort out and emptied them from their bags into a big heap on the floor, anticipating an enjoyable hour of choosing colours to put together. It was as if the 1960s had landed in my living room. There was every kind of colour rubbing shoulders with every other, all just being loud and happy and a bit manic, wanting to provide love and hugs through woollen embraces.

An acre of knitted hugs

An acre of knitted hugs

 

Oh my, oh my! It soon turned out that dementia had eaten her brain earlier than I had realised. The stripes of knitting, so eager and cheerful and bright, were horrendously muddled, all in different lengths, and different weights of wool. In some places she had run out of wool mid-row and joined in wool of an entirely new colour and weight there and then. Piecing them together took me and Sigoth an entire morning, by which time we had turned an acre of knitting into six or seven sets of approximately similar sized strips to be sewn up.

The mad kaleidoscope of woollen strips seemed a perfect reflection of her poor, muddled head. I’m sorry to say the analogy ends there. I have restored some order to the wool; her head is beyond us all, a total Monet in its own right.

She may have lacked the ability to do the deed, but her intention was good and kind. Perhaps that is what matters most.

Namaste.

The Mind Unravelling

This weeks Rarasaur has prompted us to post about Saudade.

Saudade is a Portuguese word that describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something/someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.

It has been a trying couple of weeks and somehow picking up Rara’s latest prompt for the Promptless felt only too right. Some of my difficulties lately have been dealing with my mother.  I have mentioned before that she has dementia – vascular dementia in fact. Of course, she is getting worse. That is the inevitable reality. My feelings about this are mixed, because while it means trying to care for an irritating, demanding, sometimes slightly smelly and always confused old lady, at the same time I look at her and remember the mother-that-was.

My mother was not the greatest in the world. She made quite a hash of mothering in fact. However, she’s not a bad person and she deserves some respect, the same as anyone.

This week I had a Big Meeting with the managers from the carers’ company that looks after her and gets her up in the morning. They get her washed and dressed, and give her breakfast and drugs. Later they come and give her lunch and more drugs. They are patient and well-meaning, but they also get things wrong sometimes. We have now agreed some new rules for my mother’s care, which I hope will get over those last few glitches. One of the things I said I would do is write down a mini-biography of my mother to help the carers know more about her and try to prompt her to reminisce.

These are some of the better memories that I have left for the carers to use as prompts.

  1. She is a genuine Cockney and proud of it. She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, although the family moved away when she was quite little.
  2. She was a miracle baby, who was born weighing only a couple of pounds. They wrapped her in cotton wool, quite literally, and she was fed milk from the ink dropper of a fountain pen. Her Dad held her in the palm of his hand, she was so tiny.
  3. She is also very proud of her Dad, who was an Inspector in the Metropolitan Police. He had a white horse she used to pet in the stables.
  4. DON’T MENTION THE WAR. She finds it a frightening memory. If she talks about the sanitised version it’s fine but don’t ask about the Blitz. She got very upset when we went to the War Weekend at Pickering and we had to bring her home.
  5. On the other hand, Forties music and fashion are popular. She likes Glenn Miller and The Andrews Sisters (but never Vera Lynn – see (3) above). She used to like to jitterbug with American soldiers in dance halls. She got thrown out once for it.
  6. Other music she likes include: Perry Como, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, James Last. Easy listening kind of music.
  7. She was a star pupil at the Pitman’s Secretarial College with advanced qualifications in typing and shorthand. She was very good at it.
  8. She married Bert in 1957 and he died in 1992, very suddenly. She only has one child.
  9. She worked as a PA at Petters where they built Hawker Siddeley aircraft engines, then at Siemans.
  10. She has been to Canada to visit relatives near Montreal a few times. They are dead now, sadly, but the trips were happy memories.
  11. After retiring she worked at the chemist near home for Mr Patel. She really enjoyed working there and meeting people. Particularly she liked teasing the young men who came to buy condoms.
  12. Her hobbies were knitting, embroidery and reading. She has some knitting with her now but I am not sure she would be quite safe with embroidery kit. Obviously she also gets books from the library. She likes family sagas best – Maeve Binchy, Catherine Cookson, that kind of thing.

There were sadder memories I didn’t leave for the carers as there is no point in trying to remind my mother about them.

  1. She was sent to a convent school where the nuns told her she was stupid and put her in a corner with a dunce’s hat.
  2. Her parents rowed and separated.
  3. Her mother died in her arms a few days before her 16th birthday.
  4. Her father remarried and she had a step-mother she disliked immensely and a step-brother she didn’t get on with.
  5. Her cousin, whom she was very close to, was shot down over the Med in 1942 and never found.
  6. Just as she was about to be married Dad was involved in a massive accident which left him disabled. Their entire future was rewritten. The wedding was delayed by years while he recovered.
  7. I am named after her best friend, who died of cancer at the age of 21.
  8. She had a miscarriage and lost her second baby; I am an only child.

My mother is not coming back.

The thing is, now that she is mentally absent, I have no family to share these memories with. Sigoth has a large and lovely family and they are the ones my children have known the best. I have happy memories of my family when I was young but no one else remembers those things now. I miss our own traditions – London working class traditions – singing the songs performed later by Chas ‘n’ Dave, doing the hokey cokey, mincing up the Sunday roast on Monday for Shepherd’s Pie, making jam, shelling peas, helping out in Dad’s shop….

I have many happy memories and I am nostalgic for my childhood, but I can’t share it with my mother any more. Neither can she talk about her childhood because she has forgotten it too. I know more about her childhood than she does now because she has unwound too far.

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
Thomas Wolfe: You Can’t Go Home Again

The memories, happy or sad, are only mine now, for just a little while longer.

Namaste.

Eleven Questions

Fish of Gold recently posted eleven questions, should you choose to answer them. Well, they were kind of fun questions, so I thought I would give them a pop. The alternative was to rant about Beeching, seeing as yesterday was the 50th anniversary of his report’s publication and the devastating effects are still crippling people in rural communities today. Ut it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

So take a deep breath, and here we go with something more convivial. Brew up some tea and relax for a while with me while I ramble.

  1. Do you remember what it was like to be short? I don’t mean adult short, but kid short, like 2 feet tall. (I don’t that’s why I’m asking.)

This is probably why I decided to take these questions. I have a freakish memory, and my earliest is hanging onto the fireguard because I am wobbly on my feet still. I know that might apply to any age where alcohol or drugs are accessible, but in this case I was also quite tiny and not at all like Alice down the rabbit hole. I remember gazing up at the giant furniture and letting go of the fireguard, and then my mother whooshing in and grabbing me and I flew up into the air and all the furniture was below me. It was a bit like the feeling on a swing when you go really high and your tummy gets butterflies. My mother says I learned to walk when I was 14 months old.

  1. How tall are you?

I am only a few inches tall when lying down.

  1. What is your favorite genre of movies?

I am old fashioned enough to enjoy plot, character and good scripts. However, exploding helicopters can make all difference. I would often take “The Princess Bride” as one of my top films, but also “Casablanca” and “Die Hard”.

  1. Do you drive to work or take public transportation? How long does it take you?

I work at home (smug face). Otherwise I use public transport to get to Head Office which takes about 2 or more hours. Until the last few months I have not been able to see well enough to learn to drive. If things go well maybe I will.

  1. What is your favorite moment of an average work day? For example, mine is getting home to see my dog.

I like it when either I finish a thing or get given a new thing. I like to feel the satisfaction of completing something, or the excitement of a new project I can start planning out. I do actually enjoy my job! It has its moments which are a pain, but on the whole, it’s scary-fun, like going high on a swing.

  1. What was your favorite candy as a kid? Is it different now that you’re an adult?

There were horrible sweets when I was little. People get nostalgic about Fruit Salads and Bootlaces and Black Jacks and Flying Saucers, but I shudder now. At the time I knew no better and the sugar rush was fab. Now I like little pieces of fancy chocolate – just one small piece a day is fine, although I might take a second in extremis.

  1. If you could pick one food item to eat as much as you want without any health consequences for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

Fancy chocolate is a contender, for sure, but I do love cheese. There are so many types and tastes! When I was little a delicatessen opened in town, and my Dad would buy a new cheese every Wednesday for him and me to try out. It was fun, although some of them were disgusting!

  1. What actor or actress would play you in the story of your life?

I’d like Meryl Streep but suspect I would be best with Jennifer Saunders.

  1. How far do you live from where you were born?

About 242 miles, according to Google. However, the hospital was 9 miles from where my parents lived, and their house is 241 miles from my house now. Do I need to triangulate? I only did Geography O-Level, and that was mostly colouring in. I thought these were going to be fun and now I’m orienteering!

  1. I’m going to write a check to your favorite charity. To whom should I make it out?

Well, I should think so after all that geography! Thank you kindly. Make it out to Mind, please.

  1. Do you like your first name or do you wonder what the H your parents were thinking?

I absolutely hate my name. With. A. Passion. My mother was going to call me a sensible name, until she had a dream about her dead friend and I was named after her. She had a freak name. So I got a freak name, which meant I was teased at school, and I was named after a woman who died aged 21 from cancer. Way to go.

Well, that ended badly. Apologies for that; perhaps I should have stuck with Beeching. If you are thinking of naming a child, I recommend a plain and common name, and then they can find their own unique soubriquet themselves, if they want one.

EBL – educating the nation’s parents since 1962…

Thanks to FOG for a great set of questions!

Thanks to everyone for reading.

Namaste.

 

That forgiveness thing

See, I had a bad day today and I need to forgive someone and I don’t feel I can. I feel they put my mother at risk when they had a responsibility to step in.

I can make up reasons for their actions. But I can’t absolve them. They were tired. They were under pressure. They had to clean up a lot of mess. They don’t get paid enough to put up with it. They think I am there when I am not.

None of that makes it OK.

Suddenly all the nice words and well-meaning thoughts dissolve and I shout and swear and cry because some idiot left my mother when she needed care.

Fortunately there’s no harm done, and mother is fine. But they didn’t know that.

So already I am going back on my fine sentiments and not forgiving. I managed to forgive myself the other day – it was hard. I can forgive other people for being annoying, or for being unkind to me, or for all sorts of things. When they mess with my family I just see red. It’s the Rubicon and they have not only paddled at the edges, they have waded the full width ad climbed out on the far bank.

I will hold them accountable for their actions, and report it. I will tell the company not to send that carer again. I could do all those things and forgive as well. But I am not sure I will. I think I will fail to let it go.

And why? Holding to account is about expecting people to take responsibility, and does not rule out forgiveness. But I am not forgiving.

I am thinking of Kozo’s post about fear as the cause of suffering, and I can see what is happening here. I can understand, in my head, that it is my fear of failure as a daughter that is driving my inability to forgive. In a way I am not forgiving myself, because I feel I should be providing the care, even though I would be terrible at it, and my mother and I would both be unhappy.  I understand, but my heart cannot feel it is true.

One day I’ll get there. Not today.

And yet, and still, and just because, namaste.

Blogging as a means of remaining sane

My dears, those of you who read regularly may recall that I have referred obliquely to my Great Project at work. It’s tedious for those not involved, I realise, but in summary I am trying to move a large database from old kit to new, including an Oracle upgrade and so on and so forth (just insert the Martian of your choice here). Obviously I am not doing this alone and have been accompanied in the Grand Tour by a wealth of brilliant and talented people to whom I owe my very sanity. If ever they track down my little rambling corner and work out who I am talking about, then know I love you all and am proud of you. I do also say so to them in the real world, well, at least the bit about being proud. “Love” is the kind of word that can result in restraining orders if misunderstood. And suppliers can get a bit twitchy if you tell them things like this, and start wondering if the contract is worth the candle.

Well, this weekend is the acid test and we are mid-migration as I type and preparing to start testing in the next couple of hours. Last night we had a conference call about an hour before shut-down and were all giddy as toddlers in a thunderstorm.

Have you noticed how kids get excited in stormy weather? Someone told me it was the ionisation of the air. It’s also why people sing in the shower or like sea air. To which I say “Wotevva!” and splash in puddles.

Anyway, the call was slightly hysterical with excitement because we have been working on this for two years and the big moment had arrived. I admit I cried a little when we finished. It’s a strange feeling. Next week I expect I will be doing bereavement counselling for the team – in fact I started last week as we began to recognise the end was nigh. When you have been working on a large project for a long time, ending it is a big loss.

I have just had the checkpoint call from the supplier to say we are ahead of schedule, so I have given the testers the green light to head into the test centre. Hopefully they are racing down the street right now, checking bus and train timetables, getting into the car, picking up their pack-ups and working off the adrenaline rush with frantic movement.

I sit still at home, trying to conduct the orchestra remotely, and have no such outlet. So I decided to blog through it, to try and keep sane. Trust me, meditation is not going to cut the mustard at the moment. I am not very good at it. I can type drivel for England though, so here I am.

What I was planning to blog about was Sigoth’s mighty sacrifice. Last night was also Red Nose Day. Sigoth and I have been keen supporters since the inaugural RND 25 years ago, when  I wore a red nose on the packed commuter train into London and was stared at so hard by everyone that my face ended up as red as the nose. But we like the pragmatism of the projects they run, and the split between home and abroad, and the focus on the positive. It may be more usual now, but back in the day it was more common for charities to be utterly patronising and show you nothing but desperation. I like to see the joy engendered by successful projects.

So Presentation1Sigoth decided to make the ultimate gift this year, because we can’t donate as much money as we have in the past. He shaved off his beard. He has had a beard forever. He may have been born with it, although the photographic evidence suggests not. In any case, he had it when I first met him in 1980, and has only been nude on the face for an occasional day since. He managed to raise £500 though, which is more than we could manage to donate by miles, and is my personal hero today. As soon as the beard has grown back he will also be himself again. So big shout out to the Wonder that is Sigoth, and to all the other people who did something funny for money.

 

Meanwhile, the project should conclude at 17.00 tonight, just as England kicks off against Wales in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Any elation I will be feeling will soon be depressed by watching England. They have a knack of winning in the most ungainly way or losing spectacularly. It’s painful supporting them. I also support Wales, given that I can sing the Welsh National Anthem in Welsh; possibly the most useful thing I ever learned at school, so the England/Wales match is always a difficult one. And it’s the final one of the tournament this year, deciding the winner. At the moment England can win the overall title – but only if they win this match. How much stress can I take today?

I like the Millennium Stadium. I have never been inside it, although I would love to go. I remember the season it was being built and Wales were playing their matches at Wembley. I lived near Wembley at the time and there was an International against the mighty All Blacks scheduled. As we had been over to New Zealand the previous year, I was quite keen to see them play again, so I rounded up friends and relations to make a party of it. My friend agreed to sort out tickets, and called the stadium.

“Any tickets for the match between Wales and the All Blacks?” she asked, crossing various extremities, and mentally reciting the Haka.

“No, sorry,” replied the ticket office person.

My friend was downcast, although not surprised. We had left it a bit late.

Then the ticket office person added, “I can do you tickets for Wales v New Zealand though. Is that any good?”

My friend choked a little and said “OK, that will do…”

So that was the day I saw Jonah Lomu belting down the left wing towards me with two Welshmen hanging from him like red flags. It was glorious, simply glorious.

I hope your Saturday is glorious too, and I hope for my sanity that my poor little project has a glorious result tonight.

Namaste.

 

Knitting Zen

A friend phoned me the other day and we talked about how we were both coping with our various issues and troubles and woes. Sometimes it’s good to talk about them instead of just being brave. Sometimes you need to look those little scamps right in the eye and call them out for being what they are.

As we talked she told me about how she was starting to do more creative activities as a way of coping with the stresses and strains of living. Given that I have been adopting this strategy myself over the past few months, it was a conversation close to my heart.

Sometimes it seems those stresses and strains just need to be sung to sleep with a lullaby, or painted into a corner, or sewn into a pocket. You can’t let them run around creating havoc. You need to create a space to hold them, through music or art or cooking or whatever you feel is right.

It emerged she had taken her needles back up and was knitting and purling her way to equilibrium.

“It’s like meditation,” I said.

“Exactly!” she replied.

My dears, that is indeed what it is like, as I have said before, and probably will again. It’s my Great Discovery. You count and focus and keep present in the moment, otherwise your knit becomes purl and your increase a decreases and your cable in back a cable in front, and before you know it your lovely new cushion cover has turned into a beret.

As I pondered our conversation later, in the small hours of the night, I became a little fanciful. That’s what the small hours are for, I think, a chance to let our imagination gambol for a while before the everyday world requires a halt in chaos, and demands sensible behaviour.

It seemed to me that we are the stitches of a greater whole, fitting into the warp and weft of the Goddess’ Great Project, not a tapestry but maybe a sweater for Christmas. Perhaps I am a little stitch or even an absence of stitch, an artfully placed hole in the lacy bit, so to speak. Some of us may be a little knot in the yarn; we try to keep the knots at the back of the work, but sometimes they insist on poking through and creating a stubbly disruption in the pattern, for better or worse. If Shakespeare had known more about the mechanics of knitting I’m certain there would be a good quote from him for just such an occasion. Sadly you are left with me.

I’m glad my friend is finding solace before the needles. She is far more creative than I am, and has already made socks. I countered with a cabled jacket, and raised her a knitted Dalek, and then we moved on to designs for knitted covers: gadgets, teapots and sundry small storage containers. She will no doubt create amazing patterns while I continue my love affair with fair isle and further my plans for a Sarah Lund jumper before the next millennium. (Of which there may be more in due course, should you care.)

I think I have discovered that great as these hobbies are, and calming as they may be for the fractious brain, having someone who shares them to talk to is even greater.

Think then on this; it can be your homework for the day. Answers below in comments please.

If I drop a stitch when no one is there, does my cry make a noise as it falls?

Namaste.

Forgiveness – Post for Bloggers for Peace

As a proud member of the Bloggers for Peace Anti-Massacree Movement,  I have committed to posting a blog for peace on a monthly basis. Kozo has provided the theme for each month, and this month it’s Forgiveness.

On boy! That’s a challenge to be sure! My dears, EBL is not of a forgiving nature. I emulate the oak and not the reed. When someone hurts me, then I am hurt and they must pay. It takes a long time for that raw, burning sensation to ease sufficiently for me to shrug it away, accept the scars and conclude that life is life, and we all make mistakes, unintentionally or not, and occasionally with far from hilarious consequences.

I can think of two or three examples where I have not yet quite forgiven. On the other hand, where I have been a bit more grown up about things, I know that feeling of relief in letting go. The lightness, the energy released, the gladness, the smug feeling of superiority…wait, that’s not right, is it?

Because, my dears, there is a teensy little bit of me, a small devil inside, that says when I do forgive and let go, it’s for my benefit and no one else’s. I may feel better but if I don’t or can’t pass that on to the forgive, then they may remain outside a state of grace.

I am thinking of when I am the one in need of forgiveness. There are many occasions where that applies, let me tell you. What does being forgiven feel like? Is it equally light and joyous? Well, I’m not really sure, because most of the times I can think of, those times when I have been badly behaved, no one has ever come back to tell me that I am forgiven. I am left hoist on my own shame, dangling in the wind, chained by remorse and fettered by guilt. No one has freed me. I don’t know if they have forgotten and moved on, or if my evil deed still somehow eats at their soul.

The one person I know who forgives me is Sigoth. I am confident in him. We forgive each other as part of the contract between us. We are safe. It’s just as well, because I am horrible sometimes, but he knows it’s no more than a storm thrashing the waves to a tsunami, and that underneath the strong currents of our relationship will continue to carry us through.

Lucky us. An ongoing relationship allows us to be forgiven and forgiving. Many of my interactions are less permanent in nature. They have less foundation and less of a maintenance programme. They are more like a tent than a temple, and so they can be damaged and worn by carelessness, and founder on the rocks of aggression.

Because at the end of the day, it’s aggression that needs forgiveness. A snide remark, bullying, genocide, theft, dishonesty, cheating, hurtful gossip, physical or mental abuse: they are all rooted in some kind of power play stemming from aggression, from the need to be bigger and stronger, to be the car in front, leader of the pack, in control of another’s life in some small, or large, way. To win at all costs.

Why would anyone feel that need. Why do I feel that need? Every time I am mean, that is what I am doing. It may not be possible for the other person to forgive me, either because they are not in that place psychologically, or because they never see me again (a shop assistant, say).

For me to be released from the self-loathing that realisation later brings, I need to forgive myself too. If I do not despise myself I am less likely (I hope!) to do more mean things later. It’s not about letting myself off the hook, it’s about recognising and loving and holding in the light that weakness and human frailty which belongs to us all. It’s about admitting I am like everyone else, prone to mistakes, that we are all made of the same stardust, and we all can try to make it shine.

I find that when I can do that, it is also easier to see that frailty in others, and so to go on and forgive them too.

I am trying to remember that feeling very clearly so that next time, and already I am sorry that there will be a Next Time, I can move past it more quickly and possibly even head it off at the pass.

Other Bloggers for Peace have already written on Forgiveness, including:

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