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.


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.