Thursday, 27 December 2018

Word



My ability to bounce remains intact, it seems. Somewhere around the Solstice turning point I did indeed turn. An almost magnetic reversal turn. I actually heard my own advice - as written in my last post here - and decided to rebel against the sadness. Only that doesn't quite do it justice. There's more fire than that. More determination. More middle finger, "not THIS woman" about it.

There's nothing in this whole world that can be made better by my being depressed and sad and defeated, I finally accepted. Nothing and no one. If I'm happy and open-hearted...well, who knows how far the ripple effect can go?

What's different this time is how I'm looking at that happiness. I'm removing judgement from how I achieve it. I've spent some time sitting back and watching myself and what lifts me, then refusing to beat myself up because it's not volunteering at a soup kitchen or reducing my wardrobe to three items. All respect to people who do that stuff and find peace and efficacy there, it's amazing, but I am not one of them and I have to get real about this shit. I want my life back.

I started with Instagram. Who do I always look at and watch on Stories? Especially the ones I return to and watch again. Who puts a spring in my step and leaves me happier, more optimistic and ready to be a positive influence myself? It's @roofusandkilo, it's @briannamadia, it's @(insertanyoneonthe SunshineCoast and for some reason people I follow keep moving there which is salt in my wounds people but still makes me happy) and yes, of course, it's @jvn. This one made my heart burst in the best way. There are others but you get the drift. They make me smile and they heal me, ready to face a world that can be cruel and heartbreaking.

It's been a few years since I've done the Word of the Year thing, mostly because I have the sticking power of teflon so there wasn't much point, but this year a word just landed in my head and lit the place up. It's not what I would have predicted but damn it, it's perfect in all the ways. It reminds me to live, love and stay lit up. It feels like freedom to me, from my self-imposed 'should's and 'ought-to's that weren't even working.

I want happy, juicy, rich, abundant, loving, compassionate, alive. I want all the colours, all the scent, all the flavours and all the songs. All the heat, all the feelings and all the comfort. I want to know that whatever the future brings, we are still alive and kicking and when we're happy we power up the universe.

So my word of the year is Desire. I may already have engaged with it but who the hell needs to wait?

Happy new year to you. xx




Sunday, 16 December 2018

Next



I've been sitting with the question of how I choose to live given the state of the planet. The more I learn, the more I understand that there's no chance we can sustain the world as it is. That evokes grief, anger, powerlessness...all that stuff. Chances are you're feeling it too.

If every single person in the UK switched their man made and/or toxic belongings to something natural and sustainable; stopped eating animals; stopped abusing animals; shared everything they own with their neighbours, it wouldn't even make a dent in the global situation. Fact is, a person owning a smart phone, a plastic bag, toxic cleaning products and a big car isn't a bad thing. Billions of people doing it - that's the problem. Bottom line: there's too many of us and we just keep breeding. We live longer, consume longer. The only recorded version of state-controlled birth rates was a humanitarian tragedy. At least one major religion tells its followers they are not allowed to decide how many children they have, the decision lies in the hands of their god. Motherhood (and even just that short bit at the beginning, pregnancy) is almost fetishised in developed countries these days. We've grown too fast as a species, for us to be able to lift (in the time we have left) the majority out of poverty and into a position where their basic needs are met and they can afford mental and financial focus on sustainability and altruism.

We blew it. It's a done deal. We're victims of our own success and we're taking most of the other species on the planet down with us.

It took a good long while for me to reach acceptance of this. Years. But I'm there now and it will never not make me sad but I've discovered that perspective helps. Remember that analogy that likens the history of Earth to the length of your arm? If life on Earth started at your shoulder, the dinosaurs were here until about half way down your forearm. Does anyone else tend to think of the dinosaurs as having been here for a few thousand years? I do. Try 165-177 million years, and if it hadn't been for that meddling asteroid...That's how you do sustainable. That's how you live gently on the planet that made you.

Anyway. Arm. Human life would be the very end of the fingernail and, it appears, just as disposable. If the dinosaurs were the favourite jeans that Earth wore for years until they got torn, humans are the sweater they tried on, looked in the mirror, thought,"Hmm, looks awesome but it's really itchy and way too tight for comfort" and threw it on the recycle pile.

Thank you next, bitch.

Who knows what comes after us. Some life that's here now may well survive. New life is probably already evolving, ready to fill the gap. The Great Big Gap. Once I realised that - that we probably won't kill the planet, we'll just kill ourselves and a bunch of other things - I felt better. Nothing lasts forever, eh? We'll just go back into the melting pot.

So what now? Party like it's 1999? If you can do that and not feel crappy then sure, why not? I wish that I could, not gonna lie. As I've lain awake at night thinking about these things I've longed to be able to go back and take the blue pill instead but it's too late. I'm also aware that my grief for this version of Earth's life and the suffering it brings to individuals, is in part a reflection of my fear around my own mortality - menopause'll do that to you - but you can't stop ageing either so here we are.

I've found a place of relative peace with this and as is the way with us Human Beans, in order to find it, I needed to look at my own philosophy and spirituality. Look hard and press refresh because, as it turns out, the version on my inner screen was way out of date.

My personal spiritual journey is not complicated. It started with a secular upbringing and an underlying Anglican culture. There's a brief (like, months) flirtation with Catholicism in my mid-teens when I found out my family is partly Irish. My 20s were New Age Lite, heavy on the astrology. My 30s weren't anything but a disaster and a vague interest in Buddhism. My 40s dipped deep into the Benevolent Universe/ Love and Light/Sacred Nature realm and I thought that was it. Until very recently I thought I knew what I believed. It was a changeable jewel that glimmered with eastern philosophies, magic and I'm-Not-Religious-But-I-Am-Spiritual-ness. Some days there were crystals. Some days there were prayers to The Universe. Some days there were plant spirits. Much animism.

Then one day I woke up and didn't believe any of that was my answer.

I think it had been creeping up on me for a while. The unease, the restlessness, the impatience with everything and everybody. I had a strong sense of my own identity, my values and beliefs. Until I didn't. How was I going to admit this? How would I tell people (I'm not sure who the hell I thought cared!)? What if I didn't qualify for inclusion any more? Would anyone still like me? What if I didn't like myself?

I went for a walk. A long one. With a dog, some trees and a bit of sunshine. I talked it out - out loud - and just kept talking until something took shape. Once what I was saying started to feel true and right, I kept going. Tracking that thread - the warm paw prints, as Martha Beck would say - and weaving it into  a big What I Believe Now blanket. (You'll notice I've added the word Now on to the end because who knows how long this version will last.) If you're still interested, here's how it looks...

I can't change the physical reality of the planet as it is but I have to live here and not sink into despair. What can I do? Perhaps whenever I witness something awful happening, the best I can do is counteract it with something good. When I see some hideous news story about deforestation and orphaned orangutans, I can't stop the deforestation single-handed, but I can do something based in love and kindness that will redress the balance between negative and positive just a tiny bit. I can dance with my daughter; plant a flower in my garden; give money to a homeless person without conditions attached to that gift; laugh until I cry; create something beautiful; sing out loud... Sometimes doing something you love, really really well (See: Noel Fitzgerald and the rock music that enables him to recharge, and save lives) changes the world for a moment and that just might be magnificent.

Do it mindfully and lovingly as an act of true rebellion against the horror. 

I can choose the few things that I can have a direct effect upon and commit to them instead of being paralysed by my inability to change the entire world. My decision not to have family dogs again after the passing of my current loves is a separate post, but part of it is because I can have a direct effect on dog welfare if I am free to foster homeless animals. Likewise, what I put on my plate has a direct effect on the demand for slaughtered animals, however small that effect may be. Keeping my environment free from litter will have a direct effect on the local wildlife. Using non-toxic products in my home, ditto. Financial support for people who work on the 'coal face' with the under-privileged of all species...direct effect. I can't change the world or the future, but I can change small things for individuals here and now. I believe it's worth it.

And if these times are approaching the Grand Finale both for humankind and this version of Earth, then shouldn't we go for a big song and dance number? Celebrate what we've had? Look at all the amazing, good things that the anthropocene era created? The altruism, the art, the scientific discoveries, the inventions, the bloody gorgeous things that people do every day? Now that's good energy. And then there's the natural world as it is now. The amazing animals and plants and phenomena that are here now. Let's celebrate the heck out of them while we can.

There is more I could say about how and why I think our interaction with the non-material matters. About how I'm stepping away from the often lovely, often beautiful stories we've woven around the non-physical world. I don't believe in 'woo' or 'supernatural'. I believe it's all natural and all accessible. I was already done with the cultural and spiritual appropriation that's rife in our culture. I think that if we're going to employ imagery, stories and characters as embodiments of energy and potential  - and that can be wonderful and empowering - then we should stick to those that come from our own ancestors or our own imagination. To do otherwise in current times is disrespectful and inflammatory. I've done it - a lot - but we know better now. Personally, my current belief system is somewhat 'minimalist'! Not to say there's not much in it, but rather that it doesn't feature benevolent entities or a whole lot of decoration, story and labelling.

This is more than long enough already. I've written it for my own clarity and my own reference. If any of it feels relevant to you then I'm happy(er). I could perhaps have written it in five words:

Refuse to be broken. Love.
































Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Waving or drowning?



Why write a blog post after so long? Why write this blog post after so long? Because I need to.

I'm seeing a lot of overwhelmed, rabbit-in-headlights people while I'm looking around the internet - specifically on Instagram where people tend to open their hearts, at least the ones that I follow do. I'm feeling the same. Instead of just sitting here, slowly spinning, perhaps it's worthwhile writing this stuff down so that even one person can read it and know they're not the only one feeling paralysed.

First, the disclaimers. Where to start? #privilege #firstworldproblems #whiteguilt #pityparty #poorme #alltheaboveandmorebesides. If these are triggers for you, click away. Staying? Then I'll begin...

I am so pulled in two opposing directions that I'm not moving. At all. One way lies End Of The World Despondency And Horror; the other way lies Formerly Unsinkable Faith In A Positive Outcome. Yes, I'm talking state of the world. Environmental disaster, mass extinction, animal abuse, human rights abuse, climate change (deniers), oil, population, pesticides, toxic households and of course...plastics. Massive consumption by the developed and developing nations.

I do believe that plastics has been the gateway to awareness for a lot of people when it comes to how we've polluted this planet. I was already there and I'm seeing a lot of people suddenly waking up and realising that 'Oh fuck we're fucking fucked'. It's clear, obvious and inescapable, and that's great in a way - we need to wake up - but it's also led to a wave of despair because what can we do?

We can stop using plastic straws, razors, cups, bags etc but there's a line you reach quite quickly where you become a bit stuffed for choices and/or have competing priorities. You may be ready for complete life change (note: I'm not entirely sure that I am, some days) but the manufacturing world isn't. Here's a very #firstworldproblem example: the food my dogs do best on comes packed in plastic trays. I'm switching back to raw but that is frozen, in plastic bags, delivered in bubble-wrap. Both foods are dead birds. I will not feed my dogs a dry, veg-based food because it comes in paper or tin; it's not healthy for them. I love them and am responsible for them. I love this planet and am somewhat responsible for not abusing it. Ditto birds.

Help.

For the record, on this topic, I have made the enormous decision that after the passing of these three dogs I won't have any more. I may foster for rescue organisations but - at least until I'm 90 and in need of an equally elderly lapdog - I think I'm done. I've rehomed, rescued and adored a dozen dogs (and five cats) over my adult life. Not all have stayed with me forever, but I changed all their lives for the better and they returned the favour. They have been - and still are - a huge joy in my life.

Anyway, I suspect this is the kind of stuff that goes through your head too. How do I do The Right Thing? How do I stay optimistic? How do we turn this around? How do we live now if it's actually too late and the ship is sinking?

When the sun shines I'm upbeat and believe it's not too late for me, you or this beautiful planet. I fill  my Insta stories with perky little quotes about this very thing. I came home from Australia (more) in love with that country, and in love with the person I am when I'm there. Even with the holiday freedom taken into consideration, I am different in sun and space. I dress differently, I walk differently, I feel more and I love more. I believe more. I believe I can relax and think about my wants and needs for a while. It's all gonna be okay, so let's dance.

I knew that I would struggle, the way we all do after a good holiday, to maintain these levels of optimism and happiness in the face of a British autumn/winter. I knew that I needed to find a way to introduce more light and space - literally and figuratively - into my life so that optimism could take root and thrive. I came home and started decluttering quite successfully (W.I.P.). I introduced meal-planning and started cooking good healthy, fresh food every night (still doing it). I have my morning coffee ritual and I take time to, if not 'meditate', at least have quiet alone time in which to think and connect with my version of Something Greater. I walk among living things every day. I try to find inspiring people and stories to keep me afloat. I try to be one of those people.

It works about 30% of the time.

I would dearly love to be a person whose online presence carries a positive message. Of practical solutions and spiritual ones. I would love to be that kind of a beacon, even if I only reached a small number of people. But how can I be that when five days a week I don't believe it?

My partner has been involved with the world of conservation since he was a young child. Fifty years and counting. He knows all the statistics, the figures, the studies. He is by nature a pessimist. Most conservationists are because they tend to be science-based people with heads full of numbers and 'facts'. We discuss the future a lot and I never persuade him that we are anything but drowning. He wants to believe otherwise, he just can't. Now, I am more than capable of sustaining an opinion that differs to his - indeed our relationship thrives on it - but damn...I have a growing feeling that he's right.

'So', we say to each other. 'What do we do?'

Do we do our best because we need to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror each day? Because we have a young daughter and we want her to have hope (although she is like her father, a natural pessimist)? Because there may still be opportunity that we're not seeing so we should continue to try just in case? Because it just feels better if we can fool ourselves that there's still time to turn things around?

Or do we say, 'Sod it. May as well dance while the boat goes down. Let's buy all the plastic, eat all the bacon, wear all the fast fashion, buy all the plane tickets, fill our home with stuff, rattle off some platitudes about love and light, binge feed on Netflix, and hold hands while we sleep well.'?

Somewhere...between those two places...I stand/sit/crouch/kneel. I genuinely do not know what to do or believe or hope for or accept.

I know that personally I want seemingly trivial things like more happiness, more light, more space, more travel, more fucking money! More dancing, more laughing, more not having to worry about this shit. But that's not an option. I can't un-know. We can't un-know. For other people I want hugely important things like diversity, representation and equal rights. Health care, education and choice. But what's the point if there is no planet for us all to live on?

In the meantime I persevere with self-care. I acknowledge my proclivity for seasonal depression (this ain't it). I do little things that I think are 'right' and may make a difference. I believe in the power of many individuals, I do I really do. I almost believe in the redemptive power of beauty, in art and in the creative force. I almost believe that love can change everything. I believe in creation over consumption, but I am seemingly hard-wired to consume and it causes me great guilt.

True story? I want to be rich. I want to travel the world in Business Class, and live in a gorgeous house (that isn't mouldy and dark). I want to laugh more than I think. I want to be by the sea every day (without worrying about disappearing coastlines, and homeless people looking for homes inland). I want to buy ALL THE THINGS and have an easy life hat has an easy end. What does that make me?

Human. Confused. Ashamed. Self-loathing. Just plain sad. Scared. Conflicted. Tired.

I am most certainly scared to publish this because what will happen if 'Everyone' (Really???? All three of you???) sees me for what I am? A miserable, depressing, somewhat unhinged whiner. Maybe I should aim for a short-sighted, self-centred Pollyanna, spiritually bypassing my way through the world? Could I live with that more comfortably? I might still have a few friends!

Does any of this ring a bell? At all? Or am I losing my tiny mind? And if it does, what do you do that feels real and right? How do you stay afloat? I'm listening.

I know one thing for sure about myself: if I don't like things, I work to change them until they're changed. This too shall pass because everything does, especially when you're pushing it. I just don't know right now which direction to push in besides up. I can change things, but to what?

I have a feeling my answer lies near here: what would I do if I were stuck on a real sinking ship - no lifeboats, no land - with my daughter? I would hold her as tight as I could and tell her I love her. Over and over and over and over until I couldn't say it any more. Maybe that's where I should start.


Sunday, 13 May 2018

A pocketful of wild



The sun came out and I moved into the garden. There has also been re-decorating inside, on the not so nice days, but mostly I have been outdoors.

This is, for me, a continuation of the healing process. As my hormonal changes begin to settle I still get waves of physical and mental issues. These are still cyclic. They are also getting smaller and gentler, and I have learned to surf rather than land smashed on the rocks.

There's been a realisation - typical, I'm told - that I'm now looking at the second half of my adult life and as long as my health stays good, I get to decide what it looks like. Of course this was also true of the first part but my early adult years were A Bit Rubbish. For a very long time I was damaged and living purely reactively. I never had a plan or a goal; I just lived day-to-day. Eckhart Tolle talks about the power of now in a positive way but it also has a less shiny version and I lived it.

Anyway. That was then. #irony

Over the last decade or so I've slowly built my own philosophy. I've found what works for me and what doesn't. It's not something I've ever been able to express eloquently but I feel it in my bones. Last week I listened to an interview with writer Michael McCarthy (Tracie alerted me to it after listening and realising that my brother-in-law, Nial gets a mention!) and he managed to sum it up perfectly. He observed that for 500 generations we have been 'civilised', but for 50,000 generations we were wildlife.

There it is. And we are still wildlife. I have always had a deep awareness of this and it gets deeper and more powerful with every year. We live in a very fancy zoo that we've created for ourselves - and I love it, for the most part - but to be healthy and whole we need to let that wild part of ourselves out. Let it thrive.

It was this not-so-tidily-expressed knowledge that brought me to know that this next part of life would be centred on my place in the natural world. Where I am in it, how I fit, how I care for, protect and work with it. How I communicate with and about it. It seems to me that women of a certain age have this as a kind of superpower. We are really good at reclaiming our wildness, and that wildness is alchemical in us.

I feel that my relationship with, and place in, the world starts right here. In this little garden and our neighbouring fields and copses. That I can express my wild nature just as much within these few square metres as I can on a mountainside, in a forest, or at the edge of the ocean. And when I relax into that relationship, I heal.

There is plentiful science to back this up and I'll share some in other posts. I love it when The Science Bit tallies with my personal experience. For now, I'm heading back outside.