Monday, November 11, 2019

Nest

I have finally found time to curl up in a rug on this grey, cold, rainy day and to listen to the first session of Nest, another short course with Lucy
It was a real eye-opener for me. I was at first bewildered by the questions which didn't really make sense to me: the ones about when did my love story with nature begin? and childhood experiences? For me, there wasn't a memory of when it began - it was always there. Childhood experiences with nature? It would be far shorter to list the non-nature experiences!
My earliest memory is of riding on my mother's shoulders as she walked out into the surf at Kai Iwi beach near Whanganui. My childhood, other than the awful school hours, was spent playing in the swamp, or in the hay barn, or in the orchard, looking after the chooks, helping care for orphan lambs, or reading books in my favourite tree. Even the 5 mile ride to school was book-ended with stopping to pick wild roses, jumping in iced-over puddles, being chased by cows.
I have always been comfortable living in the natural world, but...... I have spent a ridiculous amount of life trying to fit into human 'civilization' and 'society'. Having a stroke nearly 2 years ago has left me with an inability to be around a lot of people talking: my brain crumples up, I stop understanding, then I stop being able to speak my words, then I stop being able to think my words, then my leg stops holding me upright - and as I write this, I wonder why this has bothered me so much - what a blessing it is for me to have an excuse not to be in situations that have always been so hard, so bewildering, so unpleasant and confusing!
My adult life has been one so filled with societal shoulds, I have spent most of it out of touch with the nature, gaia, that I knew so well as a child. I now know I am an introvert, but as a socially inept person I learned to constantly seek out other people to be told what to do, or what I was doing wrong, I could not rely on my gut feelings, my inner knowledge, because those were, apparently, unacceptable. Nature - sea, bush, garden - is where I go to soothe and calm, but I think the time has come for me to consciously make nature my home, and the other, the 'civilized / social' part of the world, just a place I visit occasionally.

Not-Xmas

This started out as a response to a post in the Facebook group associated with the short online course I did with Lucy. 
I have hated xmas for a very long time. I didn't like it much from age 16 when stopped believing in God, because for me the meaning was gone. When I had my first kid, it became a nightmare as we had to trek from one set of grandparents to the other with tired kid/s who had been fed food that hyped them up and upset them. When my oldest was 6-7 my parents died 9 months apart - my mother was diagnosed with cancer on 20/12, admitted to hospital on xmas eve, and died New Year's Eve, so that made xmas pretty miserable for years of remembering. Then there were the city-living years of feeling obliged to do all the xmas stuff so my kids wouldn't miss out on the things all the neighbours’ kids got. As they got older we cut back on the presents, all agreeing one year to give to Save The Children instead, just giving small presents to the kids. But the food, decorations and stuff - the husband and 4 sons all wanted that but didn't help more than extremely minimally. I got more and more resentful and bitter.
Eventually the kids were grown and I said, No More. But still my kids wanted to get together and so it has evolved: 25 December is Not-Xmas at our place, all day and into the next, for anyone who wants to come. BYO alcohol, bring food to share appropriate for whatever time you come. The only rule is, don’t use the C word (Christmas). Numbers have varied over the years, from 15 to 35, usually around 20, drifting through at different times. People who don’t ‘do’ xmas come. People who want to escape, come after overwhelming family lunches or dinners. People whose ex’s have their kids for the day, come. People bring friends I don’t know when they arrive. Young tourists far from home come. And I still make / buy extra food and drink, and do a bit of tidying and cleaning – but because it’s Not-Xmas, and it’s Not-Anything, I don’t feel the burden of expectations. It’s really lovely, and relaxed as we sit in the sun, and later sit by the brazier under the southern summer sky, and I guess it is, in its own way, a new tradition, almost ritual.
As I wrote about this, I realised that there’s a whole lot to be learned about listening to, and valuing myself, and about surrender. Having grown up learning that I was the least important person in the world, that everyone else’s wants and needs had a higher priority than mine, I lived (still do to a degree) in a state of resentment. When I believed in God, I found comfort in the belief that even though I was the least important, God still loved me, I was still important to him, but once God was gone, there was nothing, I was nothing.
I now realise that it is so important to be properly conscious of one’s own feelings and needs, and to acknowledge them as valid. If we start from there, it will be more likely that we can work out ways? compromises? (can’t find the right word, grrr) that work better for everyone. I can’t make other members of my family feel the same way as me about things, Christmas in this example, but there could surely have been ways to make it easier on me, rather than my doing it their way while filled with exhaustion, resentment and bitterness. A way that involved others contributing to the physical, emotional, mental workloads, and having agreed to that way, me surrendering lovingly to the compromise – a way that would then no longer be a ‘compromise’ but just the right way for our family.
The word ‘surrender’ when Lucy talked about it in the course, really stuck in my craw. I felt almost angry, listening to that session. And then I paused and went back and listened again.
At 68 I feel like I have spent most of my life ‘surrendering’ my life to others. But that is a different meaning of the word from how Lucy talks of it. My way of surrendering has been so negative, so grudging, so resentful, because I was giving up something of me that I wanted to keep, that I believed I needed. But by accepting the idea that I am a part of a bigger whole, I can allow my inner self to find ways to align to other parts of the whole – and for whatever reason, those words – accepting, align – feel more comfortable than ‘surrender’ which just has too many patriarchal, dominating undertones for me. And having acknowledged and written that, ‘surrender’ feels less intimidating!
Ah, I need to stop! And just sit with all this for a while – or rather to walk with it, as the wind has dropped, the rain and hail paused, and there is a little sunshine showing through the clouds.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

I'm Broken - what glue should I use?

Last Saturday evening Mac and I went to a wedding and it was wonderful for the bride and groom, but a disaster for me. Most of the time people don't see me as being any different from how I was pre-stroke. After 1.25 hours at the wedding, sitting down most of the time, in a corner, noise cancelling device on, I could understand little anyone said to me, could only speak in a stumbling slur, and had to get Mac to go get my walking stick (which I haven't used for over a year) from the car. With stick on one side and husband on the other, I managed to leave the building barefoot - Mac had to carry my (not very) high heel shoes. Within a couple of minutes of getting away from the noise, everything came right. However, I am still so very tired and unable to do anything much. In the last year, it has not taken me more than 2 days tops to recover from event induced tiredness, and although this was the worst experience post stroke nearly 2 years ago, I did not expect it to take this long. So now I am wondering..... How do I know if this awful tiredness and bleak feeling is because of the event, in which case the cure is rest, peace and quiet OR if I have fallen back into depression, which has always had me feeling incredibly tired, triggered by the knowledge that I just can't go to celebrations like this ever again, (this week I have declined wedding invitations to two very special friends' celebrations) and for which the best thing is to get off my ass and force myself to work hard in the garden, go for long walks, and be (quietly) sociable with friends.

Either way, the wrong choice will leave me broken.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Finding Meaning

For most of my life I have thought about religion and spirituality in a somewhat wishful fashion. As I get older, less busy with material life, closer to death, and less 'useful' my wondering has become a bit more focused on purpose - what is the point of continuing to live? It's not that I'm particularly depressed: just sad and lacking in meaningfulness.

Recently I have been involved in a short online workshop, that has been quite enlightening for me, mostly because of the questions Lucy asks, rather than answers. One of the exercises involved thinking about my spiritual background and I was amazed at how much followed on from there. 


I'm going to write about my thoughts about spirituality here, as I ponder the questions, for as long as I find it useful. I'm not going to hide my posts, but neither am I going to link to them on Facebook or the like.

I grew up in an ordinary Presbyterian, taking God as a given but without much day-to-day godliness, just Sunday School and a bit of church kind of home. I had a brief 11yo born again stage, then....
Became a born again atheist at almost 17, after a Saul on the road to Damascus revelation in reverse, which was devastating and dumped me into suicidal depression, which has repeated many times over the decades.

This little course has given me more clarity than I have had in the 52 years since ! The questions Lucy asked, plus contributions from other workshop participants, have helped me make huge progress in sorting through my beliefs. Oh my! How obvious it all is when someone asks the needed questions!

Someone spoke of the ‘god-shaped hole’ that she felt was left when she left the church. This idea has been revolutionary! I knew what I believed but was always looking for something – some ONE thing – else that I assumed would take god’s place. This idea of the god-shaped hole, and thinking about what I DO believe (as opposed to what I don’t believe) has made me realise that it doesn’t have to be just one mighty thing: it can be lots of smaller things that can together fill that hole. In fact, a few weeks on, it occurred to me that if there is no god, there can be no hole that is god-shaped – if there is no hole, what is there? – there is ME and this wonderful universe! So what do I believe, as opposed to what I don't believe?

I believe in connection. As someone in the group said, “Everything is connected, connection is everything” I have finally realised that I don’t need to be connected to some huge, external, god or god substitute. I just have to be connected to myself and everything else – together we are all.

I believe the wonder of science is enough. There is still so much that is unknown, and that’s okay – I feel no need to make up a god or something to explain the unknown.

Deliberate awareness and appreciation of the world and science leads to greater understanding – mindfulness and gratitude don’t have to be surrounded by religious terms to be valuable.

My action and inaction in the world affects not only me, but all the world. And as a basis for action, I look, as I have done for decades, to permaculture, a system that grew out of scientific academia, whose ethics are:
·       Care of the earth – kaitiakitanga
·       Care of the people – whanaungatanga / manakitanga
·       Fair share – kotahitanga

I grew up believing I was the least in all ways. That, unless I got everything perfect, I would remain that way. That I was entitled to nothing. That unless what I did was valuable to others, I had no right to waste resources (paper for writing, art supplies, time, space....) I’m fighting that now, and I think I’m winning.

I grew up believing that I couldn’t participate in gatherings, rituals, ceremonies etc unless I believed in All The Things, another reason for the search for a single filler for the god-shaped hole. Now I realise that as long as I don’t denigrate the beliefs of others, I can still connect with them on some level without selling my (non-existent) soul.

I’ve been searching for meaning for five decades, and expect to continue the search until I’m dead, but I am finally feeling more comfortable in all my unknowns. Or maybe ‘comfortable’ is the wrong word, because I’m also excited. Is there a word for ‘crazy, exciting, comfortable adventure into the unknown’?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Distractible

I started the morning with a to do list.

☑ dishes
☑ washing on
𐄂 send a thank you message to Liz McAuliffe
  • maybe I should write a thank you card.....
  • maybe I should make a thank you card.....
  • I have mountains of papers n stuff to do that.....
  • but I need to feed the animals
☑ feed cats, ducks, chooks...... oooh bush....
  • I could collect some leaves 
  • and do some gelli-printing 
  • and make a card from those....
  • ooooh bush.......
 

 


 


𐄂 soak chick peas
𐄂 take rubbish to dump
𐄂 go to farm to buy milk
𐄂 hang out washing
𐄂 weed strawberry garden
𐄂 finish knitting project
𐄂 work on hand sewing project
𐄂 cook dinner....................................................

to be continued...........

July / August Reading 2019

I forgot about this again! So I am doing July and August together, but missing a lot out.

Family Secrets by Liz Byrski
A novel about the family of a recently deceased man. Quite good character development, with only a couple of stereotypes. The plot is a familiar one of endings followed by a quest to find oneself, and I just wish that there could be a few about people doing it on the cheap, rather than going on expensive overseas 'pilgrimages'! It ends a little unexpectedly but still a bit too happy-ever-after for my taste: I don't want books to end in apocalypse but a bit more realism would have satisfied me more.

Rain Birds by Harriet McKnight
A sad and terrifying novel about two women. One is living with and caring for her husband who has Alzheimer's. Hers is the story of losing the man she loved as he changes into a stranger. The other is a young woman living in the thrall of childhood memories. It's really well written, heart breaking, and way too real.

Pacifica by Kristen Simmons
Young adult fiction. Futuristic, almost apocalyptic fiction. Politics, corruption, pirates (not romanticized) and romance but the characters are mostly not black and white. I enjoyed it and will probably read more - I like young adult fiction because it tends to be less descriptive, less detailed in its depictions of sex and violence.

The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen
When a man dies unexpectedly it turns out he was a bigamist, and this is the story of the two wives coming to terms with the situation. As they find out more about his shady financial dealings, and his mortgaging of his wives' homes, things become a bit frightening. An unexpected ending is great - I thought it was descending into the trite, but, no.

The Shadowfell Novels: Shadowfell, Raven Flight, & The Caller by Juliet Marillier
Fantasy series of the usual storyline - heroine on quest to overthrow evil empire. Yeah, sounds trite and same-old, same-old. And I guess it is, but I really enjoyed it and plan to seek out more by this author. I feel like Australia has produced some of the best fantasy authors, although she was born in New Zealand so in this case we can claim some glory.
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And then I forgot to keep records again, and now it's September!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Breaking the Trust

There's so much talk about self-care, and walking away from toxic people, and how to remember that when someone criticizes you it's really about them not you, and so on and on.

Sometimes these things are true and right, but, actually, sometimes they are not. If I say something that is untrue and hurtful, and then take offence when someone else calls me out on it, then it isn't them who is being toxic, it's me!

Everybody has a past. Everybody gets triggered by things that don't affect everybody else. If someone tells me they were hurt by what I said, it is not okay for me to attack them for telling me on the grounds that I have a past that leaves me vulnerable to criticism. I need to consider their vulnerability too.

Of course, we have all lashed out defensively on occasion, but upon reflection, upon realizing I was in the wrong, it is incumbent on me to apologize and to try to make things right. Not to just re-write the story in my mind, reinforcing the idea that I am the victim, and the other is the bad guy.

And vice versa.

I can forgive most things in a relationship, but not that. You can criticize my behaviour, my words, my actions, and I will consider your criticism and act on my consideration, one way or another. But I expect the same from you. When I tell you that you have hurt me with your unkind or untrue words, and you turn it on me, I will distance myself. I will allow time for you to reflect, but if you continue to blame me, or cannot bring yourself to apologize, then I will walk away, because that behaviour is toxic to me, and I can no longer trust you.

Just saying.