Sunday, February 15, 2015

Depression, Orcas, Hope, Life

Ten years ago proved to be a dividing line in my life. I was severely depressed. We (my three younger kids and I) were camping at Raglan with a bunch of other homeschoolers for our annual Not Back to School camp. Three of my sons had big problems of different kinds. Several of my friends had major problems in their lives. I was constantly reminding myself of two people I knew who had been very badly affected by the suicides of others. Then I would try to plot a way of killing myself that would seem like an accident, so that no one would have to live with guilt.

The first night of camp I fell apart, and talked for hours to two friends about "Stuff, The Meaning of Life and All That, the answer didn't seem to clearly be 42" as I wrote in my journal. "I found myself saying all the bleakest, blackest thoughts, just letting the despair pour out" and they listened and hugged me and I ended up sleeping better than I had done for a long time. It was a wonderful camp -but I felt black inside except when I was swimming. One night when we were swimming in the harbour surrounded by phosphorescence, I felt great but could feel the blackness waiting to jump on me again as soon as I got out. I thought I would just drift further and further away in the dark and be done with life - but my two friends kept watching me and staying nearby so I didn't have the chance.

After I got out, I was talking to a man who had picked up that I was very bleak, and when he asked, I told him that I didn't want to be alive any more, that I wanted to kill myself, that I just couldn't go on like this any more. He looked at me and said, "So what are you going to do about it? If you actually can't go on like this, you have to either get help to get better, or you have kill your self - what are you going to do?" I thought about what he said, but the blackness just swamped my brain. The next day, the last of the holiday, we got word that a pod of orca were heading in towards the harbour, and we all rushed down there. As we watched and waited and waited I told myself (I'm not generally into magical thinking, so you know I was in a bad state) "if I see the whales, it will be a sign that there is hope for my life." Eventually someone texted me (I was the only one still out there watching by then) that the whales were already up the other end of the harbour, that they must have passed by under the water. I sat in the black mud out in the harbour and cried and cried and cried for a very long time.

Then I realised that if I didn't have hope, I wouldn't have cried over not seeing the whales. 

My friend organised me to see a counselor, who helped for a while. The past 10 years have been a series of steps forward and steps back and sometimes running around in circles, but gradually I have improved to where life is the best I can ever remember it being. I feel like there is truth in the meme, 'taking a step backward after taking a step forward isn't a disaster, it's the cha cha,' and I want to dance the cha cha of life.

So there I was last Tuesday, ten years to the week, and the orcas returned. And I saw them! On the way in to the harbour, and again as they made their way back out. And I thought, now I can die - but I don't want to, I want to live the glorious life that I have now. I remember those three people with so much gratitude, even though two have left my life, and the other only occasional communicates with me these days. They were so important to me, but though I miss one especially, I have so many other wonderful people in my life now, so many adventures to come. Life is (mostly) great.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Documented Life Project 2015: Week 1

I have often drooled over pictures of Artists' Journals in books and on web pages, but have always 'known' that I wasn't creative or skilled enough to make one of my own. However when a Facebook friend put up a photo of the first page of hers, and mentioned The Documented Life Project, I asked about it and investigated - and then signed up. 

Of course, being summer here, it wasn't easy to start. The first challenge  was for the week starting 1 January, at which time I was spending three days paddling down the Whanganui River - not the best place to get out the paper, glue, scissors and paint.
And then we had visitors including another internet friend from America....
And the grandchildren.....
And swimming and summer and gardening and summer......

However, all the time, I was reading the challenges and planning them in my head and making notes about what I wanted to do and at last, on the 1st of February, I finally began. 

The January theme was the blank page and how to face it. I certainly needed help with that! But the project gives you that help.

The first week's Art Challenge was Book Paper. Panic! What the hell is 'book paper'? It's okay, they explain. Easy.

The first week's Journal Prompt was Be Your Own Goal Keeper. Obviously the very first thing to do was to actually have a goal. I thought about that a lot and came up with the idea of allowing adventure into my life - both of the planned and spontaneous kind. So 'adventure' became my theme / goal. Except it didn't sit quite as comfortably as it should. I knew I didn't mean huge adventures like climbing Mt Aoraki or even Mt Karioi, but small adventures both physical and of the mind. Yet still I wasn't comfortable, and procrastinated. 

Eventually it became February and I knew I just had to start.  I didn't like what I made. I didn't like my 'adventure' goal. I kept going. I added 'colour' as a goal. I didn't like that either. I nearly screwed up my paper to throw it away, but I remembered how many times I had read, just cover it up, paint over it, add, subtract, change, see what evolves.

The words had to go! But they were sprawled across the page. The water colour pencils had smudged instead of washed. What to do? I was totally out of my comfort zone - just how I had been totally out of my comfort zone when I went on that river trip, and when I had invited someone I liked but didn't know well to visit. Comfort zone. Hmmmm. Then I knew what my goal really is - it is not to move out of my comfort zone but rather, to EXPAND MY COMFORT ZONE. And part of expanding my comfort zone is to accept that everything I do it not going to be perfect; not going to be 'up to standard'. And it doesn't fucking matter!

So, here's my first page. Oh yeah, as usual, I haven't done as I was told. I didn't buy a large journal as instructed - I decided that I will do my stuff on loose pages and bind them at the end.

The colourful bit on the right is a lift up tag, under which are reminders of the different areas of my life in which I especially want to 'expand the comfort zone', and notes of ways in which I did this in January.

It's nothing like what I imagined, it's unsatisfactory in many ways - but it doesn't fucking matter! My new mantra - 'It doesn't fucking matter!' I think I need to go add that to my page in big, bold letters: IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Prayer from a Late Middle-aged Woman

Oh Lord
hear me
I beseech thee

Do not let me become
that lonely old woman
with her shampooed
carefully brushed
Bichon Frise
in its purpose-made
carry bag 

Poetry - 5 things exercise

A while ago our writing group had as its topic a list of words and phrases. We had to take five of them and incorporate them into a story or poem.

The words I chose were: an old armchair, a book with the last page missing, boots, a car in a swollen river, and barbed wire.

5 things exercise

Looking out at the trees,
book fallen to the ground,
I sit in the old armchair that
now lives outside, after housing,
for three days, a mouse
who escaped the cat

My son lent me The Dreaming Void
in which the inside third
of page 53/54 was missing
which is not the same as
a book without the last page
but more puzzling.

It rained this morning:
the bush paths were wet
and water running high
over-flowed my boots
turning pink socks brown and
squelching mud between toes

On the bank of the stream
lies the shell of an old,
dangerously rusted refrigerator
which is not the same as
a car in a swollen river
and its possibility of death.

The fence around our bush
is a five strand electric one
which, I guess, prevents
the natives from escaping
but inside they are devouring
ancient barbed wire rolls.

Taking a Break - Te Puna Quarry Park

The second day of my break was spent looking in and for art supplies shops, reading and writing, but on the last day I went to the Te Puna Quarry Park. It was a bit of a disaster. When I arrived I drove to the far end of a long parking area, to where other cars were parked, and where I could see a large noticeboard with a rough map of the paths. I decided to take the 'main circuit' which led into the bush, assuming that it would take me up and around to the sculptures and gardens. The track led me up a very step track, and I thought I was heading to the top of the quarry. But no.

After nearly an hour and a half, two falls from slippery steep ground, two grabbings of barbed wire, climbing over two fallen trees, crawling under another, and without seeing anything but bush, I emerged a few metres from where I started, and saw a sign saying 'main track', and which lead in the opposite direction. Both knees and one hip were aching almost to the point of tears and I went and ate my lunch and drank long from my cold water bottle.

I decided against the main track - I couldn't face another steep walk, even if the track was a lot better and bigger than the previous one, which was about the same standard as the track in our bush, except vertical. But I did go for a gentle wander.
 At last! Some sculptures!

 There were some pretty gardens and flowers, but the whole thing didn't live up to my expectations - I think the Waikato Arboretum Sculpture Park, also an old quarry, beats it hands down.

 Lesson: don't make assumptions. Go carefully. And remember -  Here there be dragons.

Taking a Break - Katikati Haiku Pathway

I'd heard about the Katikati Haiku Pathway and finally I got to visit it!
 Again, there were tui everywhere - this time enjoying the harekeke flowers.

 And then the haiku on the boulders.

 The walk runs along both sides of a small river.


 Evidence of recent wild weather.
 Not on the actual walk, but a very fun sculpture.

Taking a Break - A Walk Around The Mount

I love my life, and I love where I live. When I was younger I wanted to travel, and enjoyed seeing a little of the world. Now I am largely content with staying home. There is always more to see and learn: my outlook is becoming more focused on the details of life rather than wider vistas. Spending half an hour watching the miracle of tiny preying mantis babies hatching out excites me to a degree previously experienced through more obvious adventures.
But sometimes it is nice to go away, although a few days is all I can cope with before I feel the can-we-go-home-now itch.

Last week Mac was working in Tauranga for three days and Rebecca was available to animal / house sit, so I went too. First thing was a walk around the base of The Mount - I've been visiting for nearly 60 years, and always do this walk, which never fails to be breathtakingly beautiful.
Just two pohutukawa trees were in flower, and were incredibly noisy as they were full of tui delighting in the first nectar.
 I love the shapes of pohutukawa trees too.

I have climbed to the top a few times over the years, but probably won't do so again - I really don't like heights. As in, I get dizzy and faint, and have panic attacks.
 Matakana Island
 I took about 20 photos trying to capture the seal playing in the water!
 There was a very bad smell at one point. I thought it was a dead something, but someone pointed out the bird nests above - the smell was bird poo.
 This little guy hopped along beside me for about five minutes.
 New life arising out of the remains of a dead tree.
 And next to this beautiful nature spot - the port,
 and the tourist service centre.
The beach is lovely - but still I prefer the wild west coast.