Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coming Alive - What Next?

For the most part of my sixty years I have suffered from bouts of depression interspersed with generalised negative thinking. Fortunately, I've always also had brief encounters with happiness, and with  joy, euphoria, or what Abraham Maslow called 'peak experiences'.  (Time to re-read this man's work.)

When I first experienced these euphoric moments I tried to find ways to make them happen more often, but then, because my general outlook has been so negative, I quickly became fearful of the power of this joy, and learned to suppress it. I have always been an emotional person, and as a child my mother tried to teach me to suppress emotions: I remember being punished and sent to my room for getting angry, which I can understand because my anger was pretty loud and often violent. But I also remember being sad and being sent to my room until I cheered up. Worse still, I remember being sent to my room to calm down when I was skipping and singing happily. So I guess it's understandable that I learned how to be expertly unhappy when depression moved in at puberty!

Never mind - I'm almost grown up now, and I've not only decided to cheer up, I've learned how to do it. It's hard work, but I really am happier than I can ever remember, even though nothing much has changed in my physical, 'real' world. Furthermore I have rediscovered the magic of euphoria - and when I'm alone I can take myself there again. It could get addictive if I'm not careful!
With the increasing feeling of well-being I am learning all kinds of things that most people probably learn in childhood! I have learned to accept the the past instead of constantly brooding on everything I did wrong, didn't do that I wanted to, didn't do because although I didn't want to do something then, I now wish I had, just always thinking about the wrong moves. And then I'd think about all the people who did me wrong and all the people I did wrong to - and so it would go on.
There are things I'm a bit sad about still - I don't know if I'll ever not feel sad about not learning to dance, and about not having a partner who wants to learn now, when it's way too late to do that sort of dancing with anyone other than my partner. However, I am okay about it now because.......
I've realised that if I wrote down all the things that I wish I'd done and all the things I still would like to do, there are way more than I could have achieved in a long life if I'd started the minute I was born! Sure there are things I'm too old for, too unfit for, not talented enough for, not educated enough for, but there are more than enough to keep me busy, excited, stimulated for longer than I wish to be alive. I'm starting another list of things I want to do, in my Journey Book, (which started out as my depression book, but which has evolved.)
Make cheese.....make sourdough in the rain to Golden Bay and to Stewart Island......get stoned like I 'should' have done in the hippy days of my youth.....write happy poetry.......visit our friend in Australia.......die, not in my bed, nor by my own hand, but blowing bubbles.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Summer Morning at Secret Waters

What a glorious day for a yeoman farmer! It was quite autumnal when I got up, not a cloud in the sky, but that crisp, cold freshness that usually comes later in late March and April. Great weather for scything though. Scything is best done in the morning before the dew has dried, and the grass toughened up. I am getting better at scything, and did around twelve trees before hunger drove me inside for breakfast. If I keep this up, then this year we should be able to find all the feijoas as they fall on the ground.

 After a larger breakfast than usual - I don't usually do an hour's hard labour before eating - I went out harvesting. I have only ever had one good year of garlic before but this year I have more than enough to keep both the vampires and most of my friends at bay for the entire year.

In my eager anticipation of our trip to Alaska in June 2011, I forgot about buying garlic bulbs for planting until I was checking emails while in Fairbanks, and found one from Koanga reminding me. The wonders of the internet - I ordered some online and they arrived the day after we got home. I ordered lots, assuming I would, as usual, only get a few to grow. Wrong!
Koanga was also offering tree onions, which I had never heard of, let alone grown. They too have flourished, and if they taste good, I'll plant more this July. And this year I will have plenty of healthy specimens to use instead of ordering in.
 A couple of years ago I bought a mini green house to start our seedlings in inside. It came from The Warehouse and only cost about $60, so we were surprised that it worked so well, and didn't fall to bits a month later. Now I have found a new use for it. Without it's plastic cover, it makes a great rack to finish drying off the garlic and tree onions.
 It was hot out there in the sun, so I gathered my lunch.
 And after a shower, I ate them with home-grown honey, and store bought yoghurt - must go and start some home made yoghurt now, using the raw organic milk I buy locally.
Then I'm going to settle down and do some work on my Apicultural Knowledge course.

Many people tell me "Oh! You don't work? I couldn't bear that, I need the mental stimulation of my job," just as they used to say the same thing when I was a stay-at-home homeschooling mother. Well, I find my life quite stimulating enough, thanks! Particularly in this wonderful era of the internet, which allows me to talk to distant friends and family in the evening, and of easy travel, which allows me to go to Auckland tomorrow night to spend an evening listening to really good jazz. The life of a modern yeoman farmer is a good one!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Weed or Wonder?

A few years ago a visitor to Secret Waters told me I must immediately dig out the agapanthus growing on our bank. Well, there were/are too many other things needing doing so the agapanthus remained.

I don't know what I do when I'm asleep, but I almost always wake up the same way. I open my eyes and the first thing I see is my tattoo, which brings a smile to my face. Next I role over and look out through a small, long window.


How could I dig them out? They are such inspiring flowers. They leap up, throw out their arms and yell to the world:
"Here I am! Look at me! I'm so fucking gorgeous! Let's dance!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tuis in the Crimson

Our pohutukawa tree respected my 'we-are'not-having-christmas-at-our-place' this season and did not start flowering until after the dreaded day. Now it is in full glorious bloom and there are at least five tuis hanging out in amongst the crimson wonder.They are in and out all day, and though they never put money in the parking meter, their singing is so wonderful I don't write them infringement notices.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Unreasonable Fear

I've lived my life with a cloud of fear hovering over my head: fear of spiders and worms and rejection and people and being late and being early and slow death and pain and high places, both real and metaphorical, and being alone and not being alone and being laughed at and hurting others and hurting myself and of being happy.........

"Feel the fear and do it anyway" is the title of a book I have heard of but never read. It is also a phase that has often been thrown at me like a mantra by people who seem to live their lives by trite phrases of this kind. Those who read a self-help book, pick out little gems and wave them around in the air without actually making meaningful changes in their lives. Then they throw away that book  away and find a new one. I'm not one of those people: I read a self-help book  and mutter, 'well, that was a waste of time, that'll never work,' and go find another without making meaningful changes

But so many of my fears are not reasonable. Worms? Those amazing creatures who turn decomposing matter into the humus that in turn feeds my vegetable garden? I've worked on that one - I admire them greatly, but still don't like them. I can, however, pick one up off the cobblestones, where it is going to dry out and die, and place it in a cool shady garden where it can burrow down into the soil once more. I can even pick up a whole handful from the worm farm to show people.
Fear of hurting other people has made me do things that have harmed myself. It's reasonable - essential even - to make compromises in relationships, but not to the extent that I damage myself. A relationship that damages me is not worth having, and yet I always felt that everyone else in the world was more valuable and worthy than me, and even though I do not believe in any kind of  god, I have a huge superstitious fear that whenever I put myself before others I am invoking some kind of cosmic retaliation. The remnants, no doubt, of a hell-fire and brimstone Presbyterian minister who terrorised me as a child. I've been working on that one but have a long way to go.

Recent discussions got me thinking about why I am afraid of doing some things other people enjoy. I realised that just not doing things when my first reaction is fear, is as stupid as the 'feel the fear and do it anyway' as a way of living. Much as some aspects of paintball appeal to me, I really don't deal with pain well. I rarely notice pain while I'm doing something, but the pain of physical bruising that continues afterwards drains me: I'm not going to go play with my son and his friends in the bush. And that's fair enough: feel the fear and do it anyway? Nah! Not paintball. But other fears are not so reasonable.

I have decided that this year my goal is to take real awareness into my fear of life and to challenge the reasonableness of those fears. I'm not even going to consider jumping out of an aeroplane with a scrap of fabric attached to, or possibly detached, from my back. That is a reasonable fear - it's why adrenalin junkies do it - it IS dangerous! But I am going to work on my fear of going past the third rung of a ladder.

I'm going to invite a woman I met recently over for coffee, because she's a really interesting person, and she lives nearby and I'd really like to make a new local friend. Just writing that down makes my stomach churn with terror. Stop. What's the worst that can happen? The worst she can do is say, 'well, fuck off, why would I want to know you?' And then I will be in exactly the same position as I am now, right? Hmmmm - I know it's not that easy for me - in fact I've never invited someone for coffee until I've known them for, literally, years. It's a huge fear for me. However, unlike the fear of jumping out of aeroplanes or getting bruises from paintballs, this is not a reasonable fear.

There's nothing wrong with fear - it's a lifesaver at times. But I have lived 60 years with a raft of fears that are unreasonable, or which were reasonable once, but are no longer so.

I will examine my fears, and I will judge them, and those found wanting in reasonableness will be driven into exile. And I AM going to totally destroy my fear of being happy.