Truths in a Cupboard

My name is Heather and I’m a fixer.

Pretty much any broken thing will do but I particularly like to fix people.  I can get caught up for years in fixing someone before realising, fuck, I’m at it again; I’m down the rabbit hole of fixing someone because it’s part of my cycle of learned behaviour and my controlling streak which, goddammit you slacking bastards, wants RESULTS.  NOW.  SO DO AS I SAY, RIGHT?

Further, while I’m confessing anyway… (ten dysfunction bonus points inbound here) I’ve realised my ‘helping’ people has paralysed them inadvertently, because until we each identify our own bullshit and start joyfully dissecting it, every interaction we have is just enabling the pattern we like to knit with the yarn of our daily reality.  So, I’ve realised, when my helping gets too helpful it’s basically complicit in the very shit-show it was trying to undo.

I was reading some of my teen and early adulthood diaries yesterday.  My multiple commitments to fixing people jumped out at me and made me cringe for the paradox of the god complex mixed with the insecure neediness.  Then, the cringe deepened as I realised I WAS STILL AT IT.  That very morning I’d emailed a friend with a huge solution to a huge problem.  I guess the good thing is that now I truly know and can start to marry up the theory properly with the lived experience.  I bloody knew that box of diaries was calling me for a good reason…. There’s nothing like a good cringe in a cramped cupboard to drive a point home, after all.

clearing40 support logo 2

I have to get better at meeting people’s problems with an ear and a question rather than a solution.  Listening, followed by, ‘what do you want to do about that?’ would be, I reckon, so much healthier than listening followed by, ‘what you should do is…..’.

I know myself that when I’ve had tough stuff to deal with I’ve craved someone giving me the answers.  I have even felt entitled to people delivering the answers to me, so convincing was my inner victim story telling.  I’ve asked people to tell me what’s in my blind spot to save me time and energy and hurt trying to work it out.  Better for the planet that way, right?  And the result?  I’ve never truly taken in what I didn’t learn for myself. Shit for the planet, actually.  The opposite of emotional fuel efficiency.  Twatfuel, if you will. Fully leaded.

I remember watching my Dad wallpapering a room when I was about 11.  Afterwards, I knew a little about wallpapering.  Years later, I attempted to wallpaper a room and it was an unmitigated disaster in which I almost stuck myself permanently to a dado rail.  Watching during learning is helpful, but it’s not enough.  How something looks and how something feels are two completely different things.  Wallpaper paste, it turns out, is  cold, soggy and slimy and makes different papers behave in different ways.  You have to get your hands in there to find that out.  It can’t be learned from lying on your single bed farting and alternating between watching your Dad and staring at your George Michael poster on the ceiling.

Someone who tries to teach without allowing the learner to really touch the experience is short circuiting too. They’re ensuring that their words and actions have resonance only in that moment rather than allowing them to time travel in a memory of tactile experience and how it changes our awareness.  That’s what I’ve been doing with my fixing – I’ve been providing solutions off the peg without getting my friends to try the clothes on before they buy.  I’ve been so intent on fixing that I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned: change and learning comes from within, so by all means help but for fuck’s sake, give someone the space to create and grow it for themselves beyond that, even if it’s infuriating to watch.  In fact, especially if it’s infuriating to watch. Hands. Off. Of. Over. Fixing.

IMG_4798.JPG

In the last year I’ve noticed how much negative space in art really speaks to me.  CreativeBloq.com describe it well here;

“Negative space is, quite simply, the space that surrounds an object in a image. Just as important as that object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition.”  

I’ve been letting the concept of negative space slide in assuredly to my writing and also how I arrange things at home.  The effect has been one of realising that it’s often what is omitted or removed that really accelerates a story or mood.  Sometimes more is more, but, the older I get the more true it becomes for me that less is more; that if there’s no space left around something then that thing is by default constricted and limited.  I think the same is true of personal change.

I thought a lot recently about an argument I had with someone years ago.  We were both adamant we weren’t going to bend to each other’s will.  In the heat of the moments, no one gave ground.  Afterwards, with time and space airing out the thoughts, we both went on to make changes which conceded each other’s point pretty significantly.  Slowly, we were able to admit to each other that change had taken place and we’d both been right and wrong.  We hung on in there because the relationship meant a lot and we knew each other to be well intentioned, non game-players, despite really pissing each other off.  Negative space and time saved the day.  And learning.  Funny old world when you consider where positivity can grow from, isn’t it?

PS. If you spot me fixing anyone, tazer me. Ta. clearing40logo

 

Advertisements

Install/Uninstall

I’m working on clearing a great big thing right now.  It’s tightly bound with a lot of the things I thought about last year along the themes of self-actualisation, self-esteem and self-sabotage.  The thing I’m clearing is the programming of a few hundred ideas and memories that all lead to one beautifully pleated but ultimately useless conclusion about womanhood and martyrdom being intertwined and about my time somehow being less valuable than my husbands or that of my kids (and, on some days, that of my neighbours, friends, yadda yadda, you get the idea…).  The bottom line is that I seem to have a default position of being quite keen on pushing myself to the end of the list and then moaning when I find myself, quelle surprise, grasping at the farts of my dreams.  In essence, I still have some dodgy software on board and it’s fucking up my printer.

clearing40 support logo 2

As my kids start to really think about their futures as adults I’m acutely aware of bunging in as much good modelling as I can before they take wing.  I want them to see that home is a place they can come back to in any version of themselves.  I want them to see that they need creativity like they need vegetables, movement, sunlight and laughter.  I want them to witness that all people are equal until someone starts playing out a scenario that oppresses others or oppresses themselves and that often that oppression is unintentional but to never become complicit in it.

So how to model all of that?  I find the answer is increasingly simple – by living it.

You’d be forgiven for thinking all of this sounds familiar because you’re right.  I’ve been here before.  It’s a station my train frequently pulls into because I find this deprogramming work needs constantly revised.  And why wouldn’t it?  Every time we switch on the telly, see a billboard or thumb through magazines we’re fed messages that women do children, cleaning, sex and body hate while men are for work, play, money and adventure.  A huge percentage of older people in our society reaffirm constantly that gender balance is something new age to have a wee giggle at.  So I figure that until the messages going in are balanced we’ll have to keep re-balancing them for ourselves.

I remember the first time I went for a run.  I was shit at it.  I had to do it again and again and again and again (repeat for about 2.5 years) until I started to feel like it was part of me – that the being a runner was at least as ingrained as the not being a runner.  Forming new habits takes time, especially when we have a whole cacophony of crap going on in our thoughts urging us to jump off the merry go round and into the crash mat every time we get disorientated.  The thing that makes me persist is the idea that I really want the result because intuition is determined that it’s the right thing and who the hell said it would be easy anyway?  

My thoughts are playing hide and seek on this whole deprogramming sexism thing.  It reminds me of standing in the playground at school when I was wee, turning 360 on the spot and trying to catch a glimpse of any movement of someone else in the game who was trying to get back to base without my detection.  Sometimes it was the flash of a jacket sleeve that didn’t match any of the other sleeves in a gaggle of girls.  Sometimes it was the glimpse of a bare knee above a white sock hiding among a huddle of grey trouser legged boys.  Sometimes it was someone’s face appearing from halfway up the corner of a white harled wall and then snatching backwards again, out of sight.

clearing40logo

I think we have to train ourselves to keep seeing it, to start remarking on it every single time in order that it gets absolutely no sanctuary in our decisions or changing self-image.  To scan the playground and notice the thoughts so they don’t get back to base before us.

This deprogramming work can, of course, be a little unsettling.  Unpicking beliefs that have shaped identity, experiences and personality is like walking into your comfort zone as if it were a cosy room and setting at bits of it with a pickaxe.  Shelves fall down on one side.  A previously perfectly propped cushion lands face down on the rug.  The tie back goes missing from one curtain and pages get ripped out of your once tidy stack of magazines.  Then there’s a phase of simply learning to sit down anyway; getting comfortable within the uncomfortable followed by reorganising things so they’re less fragile.  Putting up a new pickaxe proofed shelf.  Choosing new magazines or chucking the lot in the bin with a yee-haa of liberated delight.  Ripping down the other curtains and getting someone who knows what they’re doing to make you roman blinds for the joy of their simplicity, common sense and beauty.  Putting the cushion back unpropped and unplumped, because it’s easier to relax and sit back like that without a thought to what appearances you’re despoiling.

This morning a Twitter friend shared this wonderful footage of Jada Pinkett Smith talking to her daughter about life balance.  Whether a woman has children or not, what Pinkett Smith has to say is undeniably powerful.

Bottom line: when we fail to act upon our own need for happiness, nothing works.