Sunday, June 28, 2015

Catching Myself Before I Fall

I thought I was escaping depression again this winter, but suddenly realised the other day that the black dog has been sneaking up through the bush waiting for me to let my guard down. Three weeks ago I went for a walk, climbed to the lookout above Ngarunui Beach, slipped over and hurt my hip, back and neck.
As a consequence I haven't been able to do much, and a couple of days ago I became aware that my thinking had become very negative. Everything is my fault; people who didn't come to our party are avoiding me because I'm horrible; there's no point in sewing because I'll not be able to do a perfect job; no point in washing the floor because the cat will just bring in more bleeding animals and / or vomit etc etc etc. I just wanted to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head.
In my head I knew all this was bullshit, but the thick blanket of black fog was descending. Even feeding the chooks and ducks seemed like too big a job, let alone cooking dinner. Then in the evening I'd feel even worse because I had achieved nothing.
I knew I had to do something before I fell too deep. Telling myself over and over that it didn't matter that the coat I was sewing wasn't going to look like those of Katwise or Twisted Stitches or Hazelmade because it was just a first effort, a practice run, I made myself sew. Yesterday I finished the coat and it's certainly not of a professional standard but that's okay because I'm not a professional, I'm a beginner! It actually got to be fun by the end. And now I have an amazing, really warm, technicolour, fun, crazy cat lady coat which I just wore down to the chook run to collect eggs, and it made me feel happy. (The colours are a bit brighter than you see here - the yellow more yellow and the the main body is actually green.)
Today I woke up feeling less grey, and started doing things straight after breakfast. I put the brine-soaked almonds in the dehydrator, soaked chick peas for a few hours, then cooked and bagged them ready for the freezer. I fed the animals and then cleaned the vomited food up off the floor - thanks Spike, you didn't have to eat the dog food as well as your own! I helped Mac put a water tank up in the orchard (for water for the ducks and irrigation in summer.)
I re-carpeted the chook run - yes, that's not a typo! Every winter it gets so muddy in the entrance way, and next to the nest boxes, so every couple of years I put down old wool carpet or underlay, so I don't slip over.
I found and cleaned my old Can o Worms, put a new bedding layer in it, and fished a box full of worms out of my current worm farm, for Heidi and Steven to take home to Hamilton so they don't have to send food scraps to land fill.  I did dishes and washing and cooked dinner - all things that had become a huge burden over the last three weeks, a sure sign of the advance of depression. I thought I was so much stronger with respect to my mental health, but it seems I'm still pretty fragile. However getting on and doing things helps. I just have to become aware of what's happening in time to catch myself before I fall. Most of all, it helps to have visits from some of my favourite people - Steven, Heidi and Ethan all stayed for the weekend, and Greg visited today. Thanks, lovely people, I needed that.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Short Days and Violets

It's just a few days away from winter solstice and the return of the sun. Today it is slightly warmer, and there is scattered sunshine between the showers.
The bees grasp the opportunity to be out and about - no lingering inside with a morning cup of tea for them.
There are still a couple of last nashi leaves hanging on determinedly.
My beloved wild carrots are still found here and there.
The first bulbs are flowering, where the advantage of the protection offered by long grass down the bank outweighs the disadvantage of competition.
I haven't looked after the garden, so don't have much in the way of winter vegetables, but there's still some fresh edibles around. Silver beet which just keeps popping up around the place - I haven't planted any for years.
 Lemons - way too many - and limes.
 New Zealand cranberry, known in Australia as Tazzieberry, and in the rest of the world, and more accurately, Chilean guava (myrtus ugni). I cooked some up with the juice and zest of a lime and it made a delicious sauce on pancakes.
 And the first violets, growing wild around the base of the old water tank. They don't fill the empty space left behind by Violet Wild when she moved to America, but they are one of my favourites.

Friday, June 5, 2015

So, who Is The Real Me and where do I find her?

Be yourself.
Be true to yourself.
I need time to just be myself.
I need space to be myself.
I need to find myself.
I need to be able to express the real me.
I need people to accept me for who I really am.
I need to accept myself for who I really am.

Is there actually 'a real me'? As opposed to an 'unreal me'? I am uncomfortable with these phrases that haunt many of us, not only in our minds but in self-help books, Facebook statuses, women's magazines, in New Age spiritual, and pop psychology books and web pages.

As an atheist, I don't believe in a soul or spirit that has been there since birth / conception / all time / whatever. I know that there is a sperm and and egg, carrying genetic stuff from way back, all the way back through all the human ancestors, the primate ancestors and beyond. And those genetic factors could be described as the deep-down, inner, real me - but quite honestly, unless you are a seriously geeky geneticist, I don't think you'd be interested in meeting that me. Not a lot of fun to hang out with. From the moment of conception that little genetic me was influenced by my environment. Everything in my environment has affected both my physical, mental and emotional states and have become part of the whole that is me. Everything I have swallowed, breathed in. Every movement, even the smallest. Every contact through every sense. Every encounter with another human, however brief, happy, sad, toxic or loving. All these things make stuff happen in my body and brain. (Have you guessed yet that I haven't had much contact with Science? Science with a little 's' happens in me and in the world and in the universe all the time - I'm just not too familiar with the precise terminology or mechanisms of Science with a capital 'S'.)

Anyway, long story short - I am me, and me includes everything that I have brought with me from the ancestors (who don't need a capital A) and everything that has touched me in any way. Somethings touch me so lightly, so imperceptibly that they don't really affect 'me'. Unless I am allergic, or turn it into a giant self-flagellating guilt trip, one square of chocolate will not change me in any meaningful way. But a large bar of Trade Aid Dark every day (the original 60 something % mind, not that new skinny healthier version) will change me noticeably - I'll be happier for a while then fatter. Many experiences affect us emotionally, but because of our own unique situations, affect people differently and in different ways. But they still go to make up 'me'. Even the nasty things.

I've come to the realisation that I am an evolving me. (Sorry Science, I'm using your word unScientifically.) I am 63 and I am not the same me as I was at 53 or 43 or 33 or..... The experiences, good, bad, and imperceptible, have made the current real me who I am. Positives can become negatives (such as coping mechanisms and friendships that pass their use-by dates) and negatives can become positives (though I can't think of any simple examples right now.) I can learn from all these experiences and become a new me. Or I can deny the lessons and try stay in the old ways for a time. Or forever. Growth can be painful, but it is way more satisfying than stagnation and decay. Something I am learning to do is to not regret the past, to move forward, grow, and to be content that I am always 'evolving' into a new me. I am learning to not speak harshly to the old me, nor be impatient with the current me, as I look forward to the future real me. I'm trying to be kind to me.

What I'm NOT doing is this: I am not calling on God to change me. I am NOT putting it out there to the universe to provide everything I need. I am NOT thinking positively or chanting mantras to attract the right people and things into my life.

The real me is right here, now. The real me is changing and growing and learning and it's all happening inside the me that is now. It's happening in MY body and brain through the natural processes of action and reaction, chemistry and other Science shit that I am not choosing to learn because I'm just to busy with learning other shit - but I'm not going to say, oh, I haven't learned all the Science, so God! The Universe! The Law of Attraction! Some people need those things to get their body and brain chemistry working the changes, but I'm saying ME! I'm accepting, and taking responsibility for, all of the versions of me that have been, am now, and will be.

Actually, I was planning to write about friends and friendship. Then something happened and I wanted to write about the influences that led me to self-doubt, self-abuse, confusion and depression, all of which affected how I learned to be in friendships. And then someone commented on her Facebook status of seven months ago and I re-read what I wrote to her then, and along with my current impatience with / intolerance of god-shit and woo-shit, I found myself writing about something quite different. I'll get to those other subjects. Maybe. The current me has begrudgingly acknowledged that although I am still passionate about bookbinding, my journaling works better here - the books will have to find another purpose.

May Reading


At Book Club I was reminded of Ann Cleeves and have been on a binge. I first discovered Cleeves via the television detectives series about Vera Stanhope. Loved the series, and discovered I love the books too - although, as always, there annoying changes to the stories for no apparent reason. Cleeves has several detectives that she has written about and they are all good, although I think I like the Vera books best - possibly because she is a woman not too far from my age. So without reviewing each one, these are what I've been reading:
Hidden Depths (Vera Stanhope)
The Healers (Stephen Ramsay)
The Baby Snatcher (Stephen Ramsay)
Red Bones (Jimmy Perez)
Blue Lightning (Jimmy Perez)


Bloodhound: Searching for my father by Ramona Koval
Ramona Koval is an Australian broadcaster, writer and journalist, and I bought this book after hearing her being interviewed on Nine To Noon on National Radio. Her parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland who had settled in Melbourne a few years after the end of World War 2. But their relationship was an uneasy one. Some years after her mother's early death in her late 40s, Ramona began following up the clues that her parentage wasn't as straightforward as it seemed. The book is a lovely mix of her hunt for information about her parents, along with stories of her own life and many others. It also contains a lot of introspection and self-examination in a real way without being ponderous. I  have been disappointed in the past, when reading a book after hearing the author speak - this was not one of those times. I thoroughly enjoyed it even as it challenged my white, middle-class, colonial privilege.

The Wisdom Seeker: Finding the Seed of Advantage in the Khmer Rouge by Pisey Leng as told to Jennifer Colford
This is the story of a woman whose life was turned upside down when she was seven. She was the daughter of well to do people living in Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. They - in fact virtually all of the people of Phnom Penh - were driven out of the city, with no time to gather more than a few belongings. Her story of their treatment at the hands of the Khmer Rouge is harrowing. She had an amazingly strong mother who got them through these years (although her father died), through the subsequent 'liberation' by the Vietnamese, and then through their time in a refuge camp in Thailand. By the time they were in Thailand she was growing up and she took advantage of every opportunity to gain education, including learning some English. The last part of the book is way too full of positive thinking, 'The Secret' type of thinking, and 'putting it out there to the universe, but as that seems to have been what got her through in her new country, then all power to her. And her new country? Well, as well as working as an anesthetist technician in Hamilton, New Zealand, she owns the bakery / takeaway shop in Raglan, ten minutes away form my home. Which makes her story all so much more real to me - 'brings it home to me' in more way than one.
The book is not particularly well written, but the story is mesmerizing, and well worth reading.

Our World text by Mary Oliver, photographs by Molly Malone Cook
I didn't discover Mary Oliver's poetry until the last ten years, but she's been published for decades. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and is one of the most celebrated poets in America. Her life partner, Molly Malone Cook, was an early advocate of photography as an art form. The book is a quiet celebration of Molly's life and of their life together. It is beautifully presented: the phographgs are amazing, and, as always, Mary's words reach instantly into my heart. Mary writes about how Molly taught her to see with an artist's eye, which goes part of the way toward explaining her poetry which is so filled with careful observation and detail. I love this book. If you want to read it, you'll have to get it elsewhere - I'm not lending this book out to anyone!

Swan: poems and prose poems by Mary Oliver
As I slowly read Our World, I pulled out this book off my shelf and interspersed my reading with poems. So many lovely poems that make my heart sing. You can't borrow this one either.