Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Documented Life Project: Week 7

Art Challenge: Cover up the good stuff
Journal Prompt: Going undercover

Again I have been less than inspired, and again I looked to Lorraine Bell's example page to get me going. It didn't turn out anything like hers because, a) she is an artist and I am a puddleducker; and b) things didn't work the way they did for her.

I started out, like her, writing all over the page with a waterproof pen, trying to write about the good stuff in my life. However, my pens were either way too fine, or too thick, and my handwriting is of the non-artistic messy kind. So, following her instructions, I dry brushed white gesso over the page - but somewhat more thickly than she did, so much less of the writing showed through.
Following her example again, I put drops of ink on the page, lightly brushed it, and let it run down the page before blotting with patterned paper towels. Except only the first and last steps worked - my ink or surface or both resulted in a very different look, and one that was considerably messier and less artistic!
I then diverted from her example, as I have neither water soluble crayons, nor the skill to draw with them! I sketched an umbrella shape and then cut out umbrellas from scraps of papers, some of which I had hand decorated in various ways. I pasted them on top of other papers that represent some aspects of my life, hidden and less hidden. I then drew in the handles and tops, and outlined the umbrellas.
It didn't come out the way I planned, and I am not satisfied with the background in particular, but over all it's okay. However, I am learning much about techniques and materials, which is the real point of the whole exercise for me.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Emotional Deprivation: a self-indulgent ramble

I've been going on a web surfing adventure, clicking on links.

It started with one of my favourite bloggers, Hands Free Mama.

I then followed a link to an article by Jonice Webb which looked at studies showing that the most important thing for happiness in life is being loved as a child. However, she says, love is not enough. She then talks about the difference between knowing you are loved and feeling that you are loved.

From there I then linked to a questionnaire which fits me almost perfectly. except for two points:
6. Often just want to be left alone
17. Believe you’re one of those people who could easily live as a hermit
which sort of fit, in that I often feel I want to be alone. However when I am alone I start losing myself. I depend upon others to provide me with a sense of reality. Although I am intellectually certain that it was given from a desire to help me, the constant criticism, and denial of feelings as a child, left me dependent on being told what to feel, what to do, what to be. I need people, even when I want to be alone. Without others, I feel I am nothing.

All this reading brought up things that a counselor told me more than 10 years ago. That I was emotionally deprived as a young child. That I would never be able to recover from it. That I'd never get over my episodic depression. That I'd never be able to properly love anyone. She said that the best I'd ever be able to do was to manage my depression, but that it would come at a cost - that I'd also have to manage my occasional highs out of existence too.

Fortunately my mother had not managed to totally destroy the stubborn streak I must have been born with. She never managed to teach me to totally ignore my own feelings, despite punishment, including being hit with wooden spoons and her hairbrush for being angry or sad, and then sent to my room to calm down or cheer up. I was even, on a few occasions, sent to my room to calm down and stop being so annoyingly happy.

When the counselor told me those things, I knew she was right about one thing: I was emotionally deprived as a child. From the vantage point of fifteen years on from my mother's death, I was able to explore the reasons for this with the counselor (issues in my mother's own life before I was even born), and these discussions set in motion reflections which continue today. My mother did not give me hugs - even negative physical contact was via the wooden spoon, not her hand. But she did show love, I guess, through all the things she did for me. She loved craft work, sewing, knitting, made all our clothes, and always the new dress was accompanied by a new outfit for one of my dolls. In my teens she gave me a subscription to Seventeen magazine (an American publication) and then copied the clothes, crafting fashionable clothes we could not possibly have afforded otherwise. (This was in the days when there were no cheap imports and making your own was cheaper by far, but rarely made as well as my mother's beautiful work.) She even made amazing fancy dress party outfits for us, often out of crepe paper.
Twenty six years after her death, memories of the good things my mother did for me are returning more frequently, and I am seeing love in those things that I never felt as a child.
That counselor was wrong about my ability to love though. I don't give love easily, except for the instant falling in love that happened with the births of each of my children. But I do love them, and also my husband, grandchildren, and a few friends.
She was right when she said I will never 'get over' depression, but she was wrong about managing it - I have learned to manage it without sacrificing the highs. In fact, I have learned to manage myself so well that I have more highs now, and can, with effort, actually bring them on. (Without drugs - drugs scare me.) High is not a state for everyday living though, so I don't go there all the time.
The management and expression of feelings is still a problem. Learning, as a child, that the only way to manage feelings is to repress them, has left me struggling to learn more helpful ways to manage and express them.
I still fear rejection, struggling to believe in my gut that people really do love / like / want to be friends with me: I expect people to ditch me 'when they find out what a horrid little girl I really am'. It took me thirty years of being with my husband before I stopped waiting for his return from work, heart in mouth, every day, wondering if this would be the day he woke up to what I 'really am' and drive away to a happier life. When people reject my friendship, I have to remind myself that it's not always about me as a person: it may be about them; it may be we have diverged onto different paths; that our connection no longer serves one or other of us. It may be that I turned out to be a bitch - or that she did - it can just be a matter of perspective.
I am incredibly insecure still. I have only ever intentionally asked two people to be 'Facebook friends', so when I discovered recently that I had apparently asked some people without knowing I had (or that someone else did it - my computer and phone are always open), I was instantly overwhelmed by a sense of embarrassment and shame. I 'unfriended' one. I have felt undeserving of friendship. It took me years of knowing people before inviting them to my home or asking them to meet me for coffee. In recent years I have worked really hard on this, but it is just that - outrageously difficult work just to invite someone for coffee.

Most of the time I wear boring clothes, and little make up or jewelry. I was brought up to understand that I shouldn't draw attention to myself. That make up should be subtle and not 'trashy' (anything other than unnoticeable). My mother was horrified when I got my ears pierced when I was 21 - only whores and sailors had pierced ears apparently. God knows what she would have said about my tattoo! Jewelry should be quality and subtle - not fun. Shoes should be sensible and plain so you only need three pairs: sandals for summer, lace-ups for winters, one pair for good, plus slippers and gumboots. Clothes were the one thing my mother didn't restrict greatly, because she loved making pretty things - but they had to be well made.

Somewhere along the way, through the weight gains of pregnancy, the exhaustion of parenting, the put-downs of a society that professes to value motherhood, but which despises those who practice it, and the put-downs of my generation of feminists who professed to value choice for women 'who should be able to do and be anything thing they liked' just as long as it wasn't being a full time mother, somewhere along that way, the little sense of self value that I had retained, shriveled even more.
However, as I said before, I must have been born stubborn. That little voice inside was never quite shushed completely. I 'know' I have friends who love me, and enjoy my company although there are still too many days when I don't 'feel' it.
I know that I don't look as good in harem pants and bright shirts as anyone else younger, slimmer, prettier, so I only wear them at home. And at womad where a good portion of people are wearing slightly crazy clothes. I was people watching at womad and realised that when I dress in boring jeans and black t-shirt, I still don't look as good as anyone else younger, slimmer, prettier - so why not wear what I actually feel right in? Well, I've bought some crazy shoes, which my mother would not have approved of, and I wear them everywhere, not just at home and womad. It's a start.

God knows, I'm not denying that I've fucked up my sons in turn. 

But eventually we all have to take responsibility for ourselves. I've spent my adult life looking to fill the gaps that my childhood emotional deprivation left, by looking outward to others to tell me what to do and what to be, but now, at last, I'm trying discover what it really is to be and 'do' me.

It's time to say to the world, "Fuck off then, if you don't like it." Except the reality is, it's unlikely that anyone will even notice, let alone care!

 * This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Documented Life Project: Week 6

So as the 'good' people head into week 12 of The Documented Life Project, I finally do week 6! My fingers were itching to craft but my brain wasn't thinking well. The challenge was uninspiring for me, making it a huge challenge.

Art Challenge: When Not To Stop
Journal Prompt: "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough!" (Ooh)

I didn't feel 'Ooh' at all!

Finally, after much procrastination, I realized that I just had to start. Using a brayer, I rolled some burnt sienna acrylic paint randomly over the page, and then added some raw sienna and pale gold.
I cut rough circles out of one of my first experimental gelli prints and stuck them on the page. 

Stop. Don't know what else to do. Listen to the radio. Pick up a stylized leaf stencil and pounce some black paint on. Stop. Don't know what else to do. Listen to the radio. Use the sponge to lightly pounce some spots on the page. Don't like that much. Stop. Don't know what else to do. Listen to the radio. Pick up Sharpie and, listening to a really interesting item on the radio, start doodling. Put in some words. More doodling. Whoa! Enough!

Lacking something. Hmmm. Pieces of torn and crumbled gold leaf that I bought about three years ago in a sale. Okay, enough,I'm done.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hope in Endings

I'm feeling a bit sad. We are off to WOMAD this weekend but our usual group of friends who attend is depleted this year. My northern hemisphere friends are posting pictures of first leaves, returning birds, and other signs of the approach of spring. I have been feeling very aware of endings.

This morning I decided to go for a little walk and look at the signs of summer coming to an end, to try to find some beauty in endings. What I found was not just beautiful, but surprising.

 Pumpkins. Food, and seeds for next spring and summer growing - hope for the future.
One last egg. Not really going to come to anything, given we have no rooster, but certainly a symbol of hope.
Feathers. The chooks are moulting and egg laying is becoming rare. But they are losing their old, tatty feathers, and ceasing to lay, in preparation for growing fresh new feathers. They will start laying again some time after the shortest day - one of the first hopeful signs that spring will return.
The fruit is coming to an end but as well as the tasty flesh, fruit contains the seed of future trees.
These peaches are delicious, and came off a tree that grew from a peach stone discarded under a friend's plum tree. The plums were yummy, but we aren't disappointed with the surprise fruit.
The beans are still producing, but at a reduced rate. I find big, fat, tough, overgrown beans hiding among the leaves - seed for next spring. Hope.
These tomatoes were grown from seed from last year's plants grown from cherry tomatoes given by a friend the year before. They are so sweet and flavoursome. We will save seed again. Sweet hope.
 The lemon tree's hopeful promise is fast becoming reality.
 As is that of these sweet fruit on a shrub I bought as 'Chilean guava', but have seen under various other names.
 Among  the die-off of the silver beet and parsley, new silver beet plants have emerged for winter eating.
The pine nut tree is offering false hope with this small cone - but it is still a promise of years to come - maybe next year we will have a few full-sized cones containing nuts.
These trees have almost doubled in size this year, despite the crazy weather, so next year I hope to make twice as many bottles of delicious elder-flower cordial.
Two of the bamboo roots we planted in spring, and which lost their leaves, have rallied and grown. One day I'll have our own big fat bamboo to make structures of varying kinds.
Bob the Dog gives a wonderful and constant example of a life lived in hope.
Spike just lives in hope that Bob won't notice him, so he can leap out and scratch the poor fellow on the nose.
I hope that my friend Violet will come back from America to visit me one day. This year the artichokes she gave me are very late, and are just now about to open their beautiful sunflower buds to smile at me.
And though the remaining wild carrot flowers are small, and most have died, they aren't really dead, but rather, turned to stunning seed heads, so I can already imagine next year's fields of my favourite wild flower.

The Beekeeper's Shed

Over a year ago, Greg and Maggie gave us a garden shed - except it was in a flat pack, and got put away to be stored safely under the VW Kombi until Mac had time to erect it. I despaired of that ever happening, but didn't like to nag. However, after well over a decade since it's front was smashed, it is, according to the brother-in-law, time to do up the kombi. Which involves moving the flat pack and moving all my beekeeping gear out of the garage. So building the shed was killing two birds with one stone. Mac being Mac, it had to be done properly. No dirt floor with pallets - A concrete slab was required. A good thing, admittedly, given the winds we get here.

The walls and roof panels were all assembled in the garage over a period of time with Steven's help. Heidi, Greg and I all pitched in at various times to peel the protective layer of plastic off, which was harder than it sounds, and a job Mac hated.

We then needed lots of us to hold things steadily together while it was assembled. Steven and Heidi, and Pat and Colin all helped. It's very handy having Steve and Heidi living here at the moment, and Pat and Colin living just 800 metres down the road! (Though if you count our driveways, it's 1800 metres.)

The doors were the last things to be added - this one is waiting by the clean honey extractor, which seems appropriate.

Pat, Colin and Mac.

That's the peening stool for my scythe on the right, and beside it, space waiting for my garden spade, fork etc. The small end of the shed.

And all my bee gear, tidy and organised at the other end!

I've been making bee magnets with magnetic strips and nail varnish.

 I'd really like a painting of a beehive on the end of the shed, but have no faith in my ability to do that, so gradually I'll make a whole bunch of bees to stick on the wall.

With my new bee shed and my new bee shoes, I feel like a real (hobbyist) beekeeper!

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Documented Life Project: Week 5

Art Challenge: Under Paper (paper on your work table that gets all inky while you work)
Journal Prompt: What Lies Beneath?

This one panicked me when I first read it, as I have never kept under paper. In fact I've never had much. I usually work on a plastic table cloth and wash it afterwards. Never mind - I have now learned to use it and to keep it. I bought a gelli plate a few weeks ago, and have played with it a little, with resulting under paper.
 I used both my two pieces of under paper. I cut one into strips to make a frame, using the other in the middle. I added pressed wild carrot flowers, two 'right' way up, the other down side up. I added more wild carrot flowers by way of stamping.
The writing is the text of the blog I wrote when I got my tattoo for my 60th birthday, which seemed to fit this journal challenge just right. I printed out the words, then splashed and blotted dye over it. 
I'm really happy with this page, but, sadly, it doesn't look nearly as good in the photos as it does in the 'flesh' - the 'blue' table that it's sitting on tells you that the colours aren't right - it's really a greyish cream.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Documented Life Project: Week 4

Art Challenge:  Writing
Journal Prompt:  Words with Friends

This has been a challenge indeed: I have been thinking a lot about friendship lately. About the meaning of friendship, what it is, what makes a person a friend. I had a difficult time as a child as I had an unpleasantly fiery temper, a desperate need to be loved, and was filled with anxiety about how to behave and react - my fuse was short, and other kids were quick to learn what triggered my temper and would then get much amusement in seeing me flare up, and subsequently get into trouble with the teachers. My mother's way of teaching me not to get in a temper was to whack me with the wooden spoon or her hairbrush and send me to my room until I got over it. Which wasn't very helpful for learning strategies to deal with other kids! As I got older, my self-esteem plummeted, my anxiety and depression increased, and I had a desperate need for love and approval. My idea of a friend was someone who didn't hate me. Someone who would talk to me, at least some of the time - there were many who didn't. I thought my best friends were books, but now I realise they just fueled my unrealistic dreams of a 'bff'. 

I'm still trying to sort out my ideas of friendship, but since my mental health has improved, I am far less desperate, and willing to leave behind the 'friends' who I now realise were just using me, who didn't really care about me at all.

I'm also becoming more tolerant, accepting and forgiving of my friends' shortcomings. Last year a friend said something that I found very hurtful and nearly ended the relationship. I told her I didn't want to talk to her - indefinitely. But after a while I got to thinking that just because she didn't understand something about me, didn't mean she was mean - it just meant she didn't understand. And I got to thinking about all the fun times we'd had, and all the kind, loving things she had done, and realised that I couldn't lose this lovely woman from my life over just one single sentence.

I've come to accept that their are many kinds of friends: friends to do things with, with whom I share interests and activities; friends I can talk to about our philosophies of life, our problems and worries; friends to go swimming or walking with; womad friends. Friends who are friends through a particular phase of life, friends who share the fun, joyous times; friends who share the bad times; and those precious very few who are there for me through both good and bad.

I've come to realise that I too have let friendships slide as I no longer find myself comfortable - and that's okay, just as it's okay when others find me no longer important in their lives. It's sad - and sometimes even though I know I can't sufficiently relate to them any more, I still feel sad, missing the bond that we previously had. There are some who have let go of me, who I miss dreadfully, but I don't hold resentment, nor even a sense of betrayal, as I once did.

Getting older does bring changes: my acceptance of what is is a change for the better. An increasing acceptance of who I am has also made me less needy and less fearful about friendship.

(And I'm loving playing with my gelli plate)

The Documented Life Project: Week 3

Art Challenge:  The Color Wheel
Journal Prompt:  "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way . . . “    - Georgia O’Keeffe

I was determined not to use any words this time, other than the quote.