Dark Night

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drop drop

go the tears

in the lonely night

when all are asleep
 
 
tick tick

goes the clock

in the pixelated night

never-ending
 
 
clunk clunk

goes the meter

in the clamorous night

no silence, no peace
 
 
flash flash

goes a light

in the overwhelming night

nuisance not beacon
 
 
my heart aches

my heart breaks

drop drop

drop drop

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Inside Out

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Boots at the Beach

~ Trigger Alert ~

Tall, skinny, fair … I had it all.  The only problem was that those adjectives only applied in my family; anyone over five foot and less than a size eighteen qualified.  To the rest of the world, what was I?  What am I?

I’ve always struggled to see myself from the outside.  I know myself quite well from the inside and I wish that was the part more people focused on or took their first impressions from.  In my mind, I’m just some sort of amorphous gingerbread person and that kind of works for me.  Until I come face to face with a mirror or have to make some kind of superlative effort for an event or do or some such.  Then I struggle.  I struggle a lot.

I don’t understand the how much less the why of the external.  It confuses me when I try to approach the subject, I can’t get an easy handle on it.  I’m aware that females of the species do seem to spend extended periods of their childhood or adolescence practicing hairdos and face painting.  I seem to have missed that memo.  It was never on my to do list.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I just had other things to deal with as a teenager.  But part of me always ends up asking ‘why should I bother?’ and I don’t have any answers for myself because I don’t even know quite what that questions involves.

I think it sucks that women, in particular, are constantly bombarded with unattainable, unrealistic messages from some disturbed authority about who they should be, how they should, what they should look like.  I don’t buy in to that.  So I ask myself ‘why do I want to try to look good?’  Am I doing for others, because ‘society’ tells me that I should?  If I’m honest, I know that the ideal shape in an ideal world is straight up, straight down and skinny with it.  That’s my ideal world, not anyone else’s.  I’m a little envious of anyone who has this shape.   Simply because it would make clothes buying a lot easier.  But do I desire to be that shape?  Do I expect everyone to be this shape?  No.  When I cast my mind over people that I know, a few of them are but most of them are not.  I do not think worse or less of the others.  It doesn’t exactly feature in my mental top trumps list of attributes for anyone.  I value the inside more.

So if I’m not doing for others, who am I doing it for?  Is it alright to want to feel nice, to look good simply for oneself?  Is that not vanity or pride?  I eschew both of those.  I’m pretty good at self-neglect.  Most of the daily, never-ending  rituals of hygiene and prettification become wearisome and boring to me.  Should I make an effort?  Why?

I want to be the girl I was once.  For a brief window in my early twenties, I seemed to have it all.  I was a happy size eight.  A size that I had never even been raised to contemplate.  But then my physical health was fairly good; I was active – dance and movement classes; walking; even some football.  I was busy.  I was young.

I like to be ‘skinny’ simply because it makes me different from the rest of my family.  I associate it with being healthy, with being active and with being in control.  They are all things that I wish for right now.  But my life has changed.  My health has changed.  Nearly a decade on, how can I be the same person?

I don’t want this to be a slippery slope, an upwards descent to ever larger clothes sizes.  I don’t want people saying things like ‘I told you so, I knew it would catch up with you one day’.  I don’t want that.  But what can I do?

I never know whether it’s the clothes that are getting tighter or whether they just feel tight.  (Mongrel beast’s good old allodynia is alive and well).  Sizes are getting smaller too. I have some old pairs of jeans in the cupboard (they’re all worn out now) and they’re all the same brand, all the same size but there’s a difference of about two inches from the skinniest to the widest.  A straight up, straight down skinny friend of mine told me that her jeans were a size twelve.  I wondered what hope there was for me then when she’s like a quarter of the size I am.  Am I destined for a not-yet-invented size forty-eight or something?!

This body of mine is Chronically Ill.  I don’t have the choice to exercise.  Some days (alright, some weeks even), exercise is trying to make it to the bathroom.  I don’t do things for pleasure, for fun.  I can’t walk into town for a bottle of milk.  How am I meant to be in control of this body?  This is a body that fights IBS, that bloats and swells; this is a body that fights ME, that sags and puffs.  I have skin that shows every blemish and every mark.  I have skin that hates stress.

I’m not in control of my body.  I’m not in control of anything actually.  And that frightens me sometimes.  Being in control is important to me.  So perhaps that’s why I’d like to claw a little something back, just something sometimes so that I can feel a little bit good about myself, about who I am.  I get fed up of pyjamas and duvets and unbrushed hair.  I want to be in control, I want to feel nice once in a while.  Or at least kid myself that might be the case.

Howl

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My heart howls
It weeps for lost things
It sighs for past things
It beats, it loves

My heart howls
I’m not a Braveheart, a Lionheart
I’m just an everyday heart
I beat, I love

My heart howls
It clocks the shortening nights
And wants to set everything to rights
It beats, it loves

My heart howls
I’m not strong enough for this pain
It’s just too much strain
I beat, I love

My heart howls
It is powerless against the darkening
Yet it keeps on pretending
It beats, it loves

Facing Fear

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Busy Dark Spiral Staircase

I saw a beautiful thing on the Internet: a boy who has been blind since the age of two skateboarding.

Now I have been on a skateboard, as a teenager, aided by my best friend who thought everyone could stand on a thin plank of plyboard on wobbly wheels at the top of a hill at the top of the lane by her house and survive.  (Yes that was the same friend who put me (her non-cycling friend) on her Dad’s bike to cycle into the village.  Yes, that bush was still as flat the next day as I was sore).  I can’t quite see the attraction, much less sense, of trying to defeat gravity on concrete either.  So what was so beautiful?

There was a powerful lesson in the short clip I saw and it was all about fear.  Can you even begin to imagine how it would feel to be on the board in a skatepark without seeing a single thing around you?  I can’t get my head around it.   What about you?

Well, I’m not suggesting that we all go out and start skateboarding.  That isn’t the moral.  But maybe we should turn the question ‘why not’ around.  Instead of making ‘why not’ a negative question, it can be a positive question.  Why can’t I do that?  Why can’t I do that?  It’s all about attitude.

Is fear a good thing?  Maybe it can seem like emotional bubble wrap, protecting us physically as well as mentally and emotionally.  But can you go through life cushioned in bubble wrap?  Should you?

Sometimes the best thing to do with bubble wrap is to burst it.

It’s pretty therapeutic actually.

Go on, give it a try.

Good, yeah?

So likewise with fear.

Sometimes I guess that it can be protective but that sometimes too it out serves its purpose, it becomes redundant, superfluous.

Are you really afraid of the dark or are you just afraid that you’re afraid of the dark?

Is the dark even the reason you leave the light on at night?

Fear can be something we carry with us, sometimes we don’t even really recall where we got it from or for how long we’ve been carrying it around with us.  Sometimes we forget what we’re actually afraid of.

I’m afraid of people.

Well, that’s not true.

I’m afraid of embarrassment and I’m afraid of conflict and confrontation.

How can I deal with a fear so big that it’s just called ‘people’?

Well, pretty much the same way that I deal with everything else, ostrich-style.  I pretend that it’s not there, I pretend that it’s not really happening, I ignore it.  Or try to anyhow.

But if I break it into smaller fears then I can actually claim quite a lot of my life back.

I don’t have to hide in metaphorical bubble wrap every time I leave the house.

Just in certain situations.

And maybe eventually I can start to find ways of peeling back some of the bubble wrap in those situations.  Maybe I’ll just always be Sensitive.

You may have thought that my last post was negative.

It wasn’t.

I realised that I don’t know any more what I’m actually afraid of yet I often feel fearful and fear holds me back from so much.  Whilst I respect the occasional phobia I don’t want to give in to that fear, any fear much less to some unidentified fear of anything or everything!  I know that fear has to be kept in its place otherwise it will just consume me.

So I made that list.

Funny enough, most of them are to do with feelings, emotions or sensations.  I am Highly Sensitive, after all.

But it’s actually not a very big list is it?

I’m challenging things. I’m trying to find balance.  I’m trying to choose for myself.  I’m trying to change.

One step at a time and often several steps backwards when Life gets in the way.  And it does, regularly.  But I keep trying to keep moving forward anyhow.

I Fear

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A word cloud of my fears

Water Babies

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St Ives Harbour

What is it with the sea?

We sat watching the sea-green waves roll in, continuously  never-ending, entranced. The waves were high but not fierce, despite the windy day; perhaps the curve of the bay broke some of their force because it was likely choppy further out. The waves at our local beaches behave very differently, the coast is more exposed and the shingle and stone beaches are long, almost continuous  mile after mile, so they are not moulded by high-rising rocky cliffs and slopes; however there is a mighty shelf not too far out which seems to temper their height and which makes swimmers and other water babies cautious.

Occasionally as we sat there watching, mesmerised, our eyes were drawn to the rocky side of the bay closest to us and of which we had the best view. Towers of surf and spray crashed onto the rocks but it wasn’t the fear-inspiring crash of a storm. This evening the sea was playful and sunbeams danced on the water.

And they weren’t the only ones enjoying the water; there were other water babies too, human ones. We sat and watched those too. I confess that I was rather bemused by their antics, for as much as I loved to swim, I cannot see the attraction of becoming a human seal in rubber armoury on what was a pretty cold day for the time of year. Heads and feet were left painfully exposed and they seemed to be spending most of their time plunging head-first under the waves as each one rolled in, which to my mind wasn’t quite the point of surfing. I understood surfing to involve surfing, riding each incoming wave triumphantly. There is a kind of attractive glory to that but watching them plunge under to lessen the break upon them made me uncomfortable, reminding me of all the vulnerability and risk that water poses to us.

A little later, we moved on to a sheltered harbour. Relatively sheltered, that is, because the waves, although tempered by the harbour wall and the natural shape of the opposite cliffs, were causing the small boats anchored there to rock, not bob, with each roll. A rock that at times was more of a lurch and once again, I was reminded of man’s vulnerability and found myself, yet again, wondering at those for whom the sea has always bewitchingly called.

Water is the story of human civilisation, great cities and cultures have risen and fallen with the availability of water. Or, perhaps ironically, the over-inundation of water. Humans depend on water for everything: to drink, to give them food to eat, to water the animals they tame and use, to give them building materials, to give them opportunities to trade.

As I watched the small dinghies rock in that sheltered harbour, I thought of how peoples, not so long ago really, went to sea in vessels not much bigger or much more secure. Great trading networks were founded by the determination of people in small, vulnerable vessels; great discoveries and voyages of exploration were undertaken by the determination of people in small, vulnerable vessels. And I wonder why. Being in a boat, even on a proverbial millpond, holds little attraction to me. I see the vulnerability and the risk. I fear water.

But so many don’t. I have great respect for those who chose to go to sea even as I baffle at their choice. We still depend on those who go to sea; those who transport the goods that feed our insatiable hunger for material things; those who transport the actual food for our actual hunger; those who catch the food. Presumably the sea calls to them, it sings a song of enchantment in their genes, it lures them. And lures never end well. The sea is to be respected.

But feared? Perhaps. Because as I watched those gentle harbour waves, I realised too how unstoppable, how uncontrollable those waves were. And that is what I fear; to me water is a powerful force, one that can never be dominated or mastered by mere humans, however experienced or knowledgeable. We are nothing against its strength, we can be swept along by it just like the tumbling weed or the churning sand. And however mighty or impressive the civilisations that we keep on building, it can all be swept away by one wave, like a sandcastle built too far down the shore.

I am not a water baby; I keep my distance, admiring the beauty and charm of a simple, single wave but still deeply conscious of who is more powerful.

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Why Not?

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It turns out that I have discovered the most dangerous words in the entire Universe, two innocent little words that when used in conjunction tend to have serious consequences.

A lot of people have picked up on the dreaded ‘what if’; ‘what if’ can be used looking forward or looking back but there is always a tinge of regret.  In hindsight, we can wish that we had taken another course or path and with doubt, we can wonder if we’re taking the right one now or in the future.  Another variation is ‘if only’, which features in lyrics where it is declared to be ‘the loneliest words that you’ll ever know’.

I don’t do the looking backwards ‘what if’.  Things happen, life happens.  We can’t undo the past and, normally, I can’t grasp the concept of future.  Looking forwards, well, you know what I’m like for worrying.  And I have the kind of vivid and fertile imagination that allows me to conjure up all the billion and one dreadful possibilities for any one insignificant moment.

But those are not the two dangerous words; as surprising as it seems, my negative attitude is what keeps me strong and moving forwards.  I know that things rarely, if ever, are as bad as I think that they’re going to be.  And when bad stuff happens, truthfully, I’m too busy dealing with it, I go into crisis mode, to fret myself dreaming up even worse things.

So what are those two dangerous words?

WHY

NOT

Together they are potent.  And have serious consequences.

I’ve never used the phrase before; after all, I’m pretty good at knowing automatically all the billion and one reasons why I shouldn’t do something.  But as you know there’s been a lot of psychological DIY going on this winter and I decided that this year would be the year that I would risk, that I would dare.

So I found myself asking ‘why not?’

When someone said that they’d really like it if they had a bag or carrier for a water bottle when they go away, I asked myself those two dangerous words and before I quite knew what I was doing, I had my hand up, yes I would make them one.

I even sketched a quick design on a napkin.

I can’t draw.

It’s a fact that everyone else in the entire world can.

(Someone further up the table couldn’t quite work out why I’d drawn a picture of a toilet pan (apparently) so  I may not draw again in public for a loooong time again).

I offered to make something.

Something with a needle and thread, something with fabric, something that involves sewing.

I can’t sew.

And the two girls who I was making these for can sew.

Like properly sew.

With sewing machines.

And they make clothes.

Hm.

‘Why not’ is indeed a dangerous phrase.

With consequences, serious consequences.

I was committed and I had to start sewing.

Husband helped me with the pattern (which we invented along the way) and did the cutting out (which terrifies me).

But I did most of the sewing.

In my pretty irregular way.

I then asked myself ‘why not’ again.

I don’t do embroidery.

Embroidery is for artistic people who sew.

I am neither artistic or a sewer.

(That word written can be read two very different ways, fortunately I am neither).

But I picked up Husband’s embroidery stitch guide book and thought ‘why not’.

Maybe other people just start at the beginning, maybe other people just start by following the instructions step by step, maybe other people don’t know it all automatically.

So I embroidered.

Me!

Yep.

I took a needle and some floss (not dental) and I follow the instructions, carefully, idiosyncratically but still irregularly and I gave it my best shot.

Because that’s all other people do isn’t it?  They just try to do their best.  And that’s all anyone can do, including me.  I can only try.  And if I don’t try then I can’t do.

So here’s what we did (thank you Husband for all your help!):

I used some thick cotton fabric that we already had from another project years ago so I gave them a choice of three colours: orange, red and green.  I also had a brand new fleece that had promotional slogans across it so I decided that the best use for it was in pieces.  Lining the cotton bags with fleece makes the carrier a lot more insulating as well protecting the bottle better from knocks.

We modelled the dimensions on the largest (fattest too) bottled water bottle we could find locally but found the first one came out a little too cozy so we upped the size a little for the second one.

We also discovered that a circle at the bottom of a cylinder is neither the same diameter nor the same circumference as the cylinder.  I was very baffled.  We did eventually come up with a scale based on other measurements found on various online bottle carrier tutorials, a circle is a third of the diameter of the cylinder.  Even more eventually, Husband discovered that it was something to do with pie.  Well, I’m always glad to have pie in my life.

For the straps, we all agreed that a long strap was best, this is so it can be carried comfortably for long periods over a shoulder or across the body.  Not taking any chances with guestimation, I got them to provide their ideal measurement (they went home and measured a bag strap that they use).  This was just as well because the shorter of the two wanted the longer strap.  Obviously.  (I kept the text message with the measurement just in case! I wanted proof).

Just as in knitting, straps always take a very long time.  Our friends were going away the next day and I didn’t get them finished until five that evening!  That was stressful.  Stress makes me tired.  But I’m glad that I did it, I’m glad that I said ‘why not’.  Even with the consequences, I rather like this new confidence.  I’m enjoying being creative again, I’m enjoying daring and risking for the first time ever.

Orange Bottle Carrier

Red Bottle Carrier

Two Bottle Carriers

(Oh, and the toggles?  I nicked them off the ‘up-cycled’ fleece along with that rather nifty cylindrical elastic).

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