52and40/25 Regenerative Circuits

 

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The hardest bit of writing for me isn’t finding ideas or receiving rejections. Both of those are plentiful for me at this stage.  Both of those are great teachers too – to be appreciated and understood just as the nice, easy bits are.

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For me, the hardest bit’s waiting for feedback.  The no-woman’s land of yay or nay.

The Isle of Maybe.

I’m a feedback junkie – reacting to feedback is my fuel for the next thing.

I guess I need to cultivate a better relationship with my own feedback, for the between bits.

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More on #52and40 here.

52and40/8 Spirit Level

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I’ve known folk who did everything for change and, at the end of short and happy lives, died.

When change moves at a glacial pace it’s hard to know what the point is.

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I think the point is to make your life a laughing one full of hopeful risks and challenged potential anyway, even if the only payback is a clear conscience.

A clear conscience is a radiant experience, after all.

Change is drip-fed right up till the millisecond the damn breaks against the pressure.

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Maybe change is closer than we know.52and40-1

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What’s all this #52and40 malarky anyway?  Read all about it here.

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We Need To Talk About Clearing

Well, I do.

In this year of turning to salute and wink at my forties as the fresh new chapter, I’ve been telling you about all the metaphysical things I’ve cleared and neglecting to tell you about all the literal stuff that’s been leaving the bodily grasp, too.

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So, in order of colossal effort to nae bother, this year I/we have;

  1. cleared out the garage
  2. cleared out the lean-to-porch-cum-boot room
  3. had two chimneys removed
  4. cleared out 80% of my crafting hoard
  5. shredded ca. four tons of historical paperwork (possibly less)
  6. Cleared the crap from the edges of the garden left by the old owner – piles of tiles, slabs, mounds of chuckies and, bizarrely, planks of wood woven into the hedges.  It’s so good to see these areas breathing now.
  7. Unsubscribed the email lists which collectively overwhelm me with ads, reminders and useless brain noise.  Newsflash: the information you actually need always gets to you.  Bonus: an uncluttered inbox is a thing of calm and productivity.

When I see it like that it doesn’t look like enough but alongside normal life it has felt like being in the domestic trenches, at times.

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In getting rid of material schizz I have realised – with an often fascinated, semi-detached cringe – a lot of the stuff I held onto was soaked with trauma.  Thinking back on that now – as recent as it is – I’m gobsmacked. What a thing to do.

Marie Kondo is right (and I’m going to swearily paraphrase here) – if you don’t hold something and feel joy, WHY the ever loving fuck are you keeping it?  In my case I think I’ve been hanging onto some things as evidence of my side of the story.  That realisation has lead me to really explore why I often live with a sense of waiting to be put on emotional trial.  It’s a weird burden  I see many women bear – this sense of being emotionally responsible for so much, absorbing shame and responsibility as if we were a mop and they were a spill, then never carefully freeing ourselves from the added weight.  I’m a firm believer that men and women are not very different creatures at all but I also follow that idea closely with acknowledgement of the social contexts of gender causing us to move through the world quite differently.  It’s not uncommon for us to place our feet, often unquestioningly,in the familiar prints of people who came before us and then to wonder how we got to destinations we’d have preferred to avoid.

The more I talk to friends the more stunned I am about what women in particular have gone through and are living with and surviving, often without expert support that would be justified a million times over, were case notes written up.  For all that’s good and joyful, we really should question where our ideas and the stuff in our homes comes from and whether we feel truly at ease and joyful holding any of them.

Two events which really feed #Clearing40 thoughts for me are emptying my Mum’s house after her death and, years later, working in a charity shop and processing other people’s old things.  Both experiences rammed home the reality that stuff is stuff – nothing more and nothing less.  We imbue all sorts of meaning into a thing and then there it is, in some stranger’s hands, cleansed of the past previously projected onto it.  What a gift.

We collect, I think, to document our journey or weight our value and we inadvertently give ourselves a lot of things to dust along the way.  As the time in front of me seems to move more quickly I repeatedly assess whether I want to be doing or dusting and, by fuck, I am so much more compelled to laughs, or the top of a mountain, or to sit and write than I am to get down and sweaty with the Dyson or feel guilty at the sight of an old rucksack and the myriad difficult memories it stirs.  I think that particularly for those of us who’ve lived through trauma, we need to make our homes an easy place to be – a place where we smile frequently and don’t reinforce things that drag our energy down.  In short, we need to maximise joy.  Because we deserve it too.  Everyone does.

I totally understand why people who’ve retired are increasingly downsizing and ditching, swapping older houses for new builds with light, clean-lines furniture and one minimal ornament. I didn’t get it before.  I thought they were mad, these people hemorrhaging stuff and deciding radical things like their one good colander is more relevant than their 3 shitey ones.  Now, simpler living beckons me seductively closer each year. I get high on seeing space where once there was clutter.

In short, here’s the  quantum metaphysical maths;

Space = Time and Light.

Time and Light = Possibilities.

Possibilities = Joy.

Can’t argue with science, right?

 

 

 

Privilege as a Parrot

 

Are you sitting uncomfortably?

Good. Then I’ll begin.

It’s like that at the moment, isn’t it?  That is if you haven’t absented yourself completely from the news and are staying engaged by degrees, trying to figure out what to do to help the world.  Sometimes, things feel hopeless.

Sometimes again, you realise rock bottom’s a great place to look up from.

Sometimes – and this is the most common one for me – sometimes uncomfortable means learning.  Like remembering shit things I’ve said in the past and being embarrassed and glad not too many people heard them at points when I clearly wasn’t learning – at points when I was sitting so comfortably I actually thought my opinions were right about most things, no development, devil’s advocate or exploration required.  Pass me a tabloid and call me Sugar Tits, because that’s how the world went back then and, I was sure, no point trying to fight what you can’t change.

Being on Twitter has schooled my ass.  Suffering ante and post natal depressions schooled my ass too.

Both things have made me sit uncomfortably and, know what?  Nowadays I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Every time I learn something my world view gets bigger; my perspective gets bigger.  My appreciation gets bigger.  My relationships get deeper because my empathy grows and the universe, at the same time as feeling more chaotic, also somehow makes more sense.  Learning means you get to see the patterns in things and when you can see the patterns there’s less to shock you and the things that need to be fought for become clearer.  Learning means you have a head start on everything and are OK with saying the words, ‘I don’t know’, which, I’ve learned, are great when it comes to shaking off the fuck awful armour of attempting to know it all.  ‘I don’t know’ lets in a more realistic rhetoric of accepting I’m not all things to all people.  I’m faulted, but I’m trying really hard to understand and improve all the things I’m affecting.

   
   
Depression took me from being the one who was always first with an opinion and plonked me at the back of any crowd, desperately trying to blend with the wallpaper and muted by synapses void of any of the feel-good.  When I was depressed, I unlearned talking without thinking.  I said tiny sentences inside my head repeatedly before saying them out loud – I was that scared of getting anything wrong, upsetting anyone or drawing attention to myself.  I was least distressed and confused in bed, lapsing in and out of sleep and receiving information from the telly, the radio or my extremely nearest and dearest.  I could process life at a radically restrained speed.  Too slow to allow a two-way dialogue out loud, my thoughts would suspend anything new next to what I thought I’d known before I got ill.  Then, with largely cold emotion, I’d notice the contrasts and with the defensive emotions that had kept me closed no longer in play, I saw objectivity in practice from my zoomed out, emotionally anaesthetised stasis.

As I started to get better with medication, I’d catch myself every now and then doing talking without thinking first.  It was strange, like watching an unknown child take their first steps; I was half detached, my personality re-emerging after the unholy clamour of the internal war, proud but tentative.   I was shaky but I could manage a bit of forward motion before going bright red and replaying words in my head afterwards, retro-checking for flaws.  Now I can go whole weeks of talking without thinking but, overall, I now also think a hell of a lot more without talking too.  I doubt I’d have learned that reflective skill without being taken to its cognitive classroom by chemical force.  

As the time stretches to a decade now since I was ill, I’m beginning to look back and say that although ante and post-natal depressions robbed me of memories with my babies and almost killed me, they also gave us great gifts.  In my quiet time my soul fell though wormholes time and again but, luckily, new information and knowledge did not.  Because I couldn’t talk, I learned to listen – even when I hated what I was hearing.  I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and I can tell from the calibre of the people around me nowadays, that’s a very good thing.

And Twitter?  Twitter gives me the gift of being able to follow wildly intelligent and experienced people who’ve processed faster than me and are making me uncomfortable, privately, in the comfort of my own head as I try to catch up.   Twitter keeps me accountable for knowing and owning the difference between opinion and fact.  Perhaps most importantly, Twitter ensures awareness of my privilege rides everywhere with me, like a parrot on my shoulder, squawking at me intermittently and shitting into my comfort zone.

#BlackLivesMatter 

Other voices on privilege here and here.

  

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.

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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.

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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

 

Allow It

For the longest time I was scared that if I made a proper writing space for myself I’d fail to live up to it.  I had a feeling that if I went to the effort of making a space perfect I’d then sit in it, stymied by expectation and blocked by guilt of under-performing and using an area which could be better used for…. erm… anything or anyone but me?  A plant, perhaps?

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Isn’t it strange, when we really start to reflect on what it is about ourselves that holds us back from doing the things we need and want to do?

I felt that making a dedicated space for myself to write in would be like kicking off a beginning and an end at the same time- like the proverbial exercise equipment in most homes at some point – in it comes with good intentions and, eventually, out it goes as a dusty clothes horse everyone bruised shins on and cursed at.  Somewhere in the middle there was a choice, spoken or silent, to deviate from intention.  It’s quite often that middle time that’s the difficult animal to keep looking in the eye, I find.

I guess the thing I intuitively knew I had to do before claiming a space, was to claim a habit.  I had to turn my sporadic bouts of writing into a regular way of life.  I had to assimilate the practice of writing alongside everything else I did regularly or, I knew, the assertion of being a writer just would not take wing.  I had to do the beginning and the middle so the writing space would be a continuation and not an end because – fear of fears – if I didn’t claim the habit now another decade would pass.  Another ten years would go and I’d be sitting again, just dabbling my toes in the water I knew I could go swimming in but kept choosing to avoid for fear of failure.

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So I set about it.  Long story short, I now have a space in which I write.  It’s heaven.  I let myself trust after a year of writing for a minimum of four days a week that I had established a habit.  I quietly cleared an area, begged the family to not really mention it so I could slip into it without fanfare and restarted the sentence I’d got half way through in my bed the day before.

It’s nice, to feel calm enough to do things in my own time.  Additionally, the space has given me gifts I didn’t know were coming;

  1. Greater productivity – no set up or tidy up times means more time on the page.
  2. Capturing thoughts as and when they happen is easier and less stuff is forgotten, so less woe, regret and general negativity occurs.
  3. Occupying a space you know you’ve worked to deserve is a power in itself, and from this, like magic, more creativity and power grows.  Think Magic Porridge Pot but with words, coffee cups and epiphanies.  I have no idea where it’s all eventually heading.  I hope I get to a point of pointing at my screen and declaring I might have birthed a book but the more I enjoy the process the more the offshoots get more interesting too.

In putting together my wee space I’ve focused on a theme of imperfection which is just the ticket for double bluffing my stage-fright about living up to a setting.  If the setting is fairly shit, I’ve found, any output feels positive by comparison.  Better this way than the other, I reckon.  I remember trying to write in a cafe a few times.  I set things up beautifully, dressed up like I thought a writer might and out came nothing much at all.  I was too busy people watching, ordering pancakes and rearranging my arse bones on chairs that were never quiet right.  Thus, on this endeavour I have no matching stationery or furniture.  There’s a spider the size of a small continent living in the skirting board directly behind me.  The back of the desk looks like some cables bred with each other then lay down in dust for a fag before never getting back up again.  My monitor is precariously balanced so as to prioritise my neck rather than its aesthetic.  There is a new chair from CostCo that isn’t fucking up my pelvis but which smells very strongly and strangely of mothballs.  And so it is for now.  It’ll evolve, I’m quietly allowing it all.

Oh and finally, my inspirational quote quota flatly consists of;

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Works for me.

Days of Miracle and Wonder

It’s ten to one in the afternoon, I haven’t left the house apart from to hang up the washing in the garden and already I’ve been given six cues to not like myself very much.

When I checked Twitter this morning I had four new followers and six of my tweets had been favourited overnight.  Yay x 10!  Except no.  Three of the new followers were accounts with timelines full of before and after pictures of women who’d used anti-ageing treatments.  Three of the favourite clickers were similar accounts and another was a diet zealot with a bio urging me to get the secret now about how I too could have a body I could love.

The assumption being with all of this cack is that I don’t like myself.

It’s assumed I don’t like my skin.  It’s assumed I don’t like my face.  It’s assumed I don’t like my weight.  Ergo, it’s assumed I pretty much don’t like me.

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It’s also assumed that we can just ignore this kind of shit and pretend it doesn’t get in by osmosis.  And yet…. it does get in.  Because we’re conditioned to let it in.

I block them all but, dammit, it’s already slightly too late.  Their messages shout cheeky one liners from the back of my brain.  They’ve got into the bit where all the messages I’ve seen that tell me not to like myself exist despite the fact I regularly go back there and bludgeon them.  What can I say?  They’re persistent because they’re omnipresently backed up.

All those billboards, all those ads in expensive magazines where a woman sits wearing two grand worth of clothes, airbrushed to buggery and firmly artistically directed not to smile.  Having it all means looking like someone just pissed on your dinner – right?  Wasn’t that the message I was supposed to receive?  Whatevs.  The only thing we can be sure about is that even having it all doesn’t bring happiness and as women we’re supposed to stay thick enough not to notice that (and keep flicking our cash at the naked emperor).

Then there are the TV ads.  The ones that make you want to gouge your eyes out because they make you realise that if these ads still exist too many people on the planet think women are just naturally better at cleaning and baby-care than men and men are much better at doing flipcharts and power enhancing worky things. Duh!

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So I’m clearing what messages I can and turning on a different kind of TV.  This time I’m going for Tunnel Vision.  I will sing out loud when I come across women-hating Twitter accounts and have to spend three seconds blocking them.  It’s really hard to take in subliminal messaging when you’re singing Boy in the Bubble from Paul Simon at the top of your lungs.  I’ll keep treating misogynistically coded billboards and perfume ads as if they are shite-coated scorpions rising up in front of me; the only appropriate response being to scream and run or karate chop and spit F words.  I’ll keep watching Netflix instead of normal TV because life without the ads and the pop viewing bullshit is like gifting yourself two entirely new brain lobes.  I’ll hunt out the reality that chimes with me instead – stories that tell tales about women knowing their explosive worth and men who need more than a Playboy jumpstart to get turned on.  I’ll keep engaging in stuff that advances arguments littered with intelligence and creativity.  When the shitty parade of society rolls up in front of me to reinforce patriarchal messages I’ll turn the music up and show it my (gyrating, non-aspirational) ass.

In a hilarious act of radical defiance that’ll make men and women everywhere roll their eyes and wish I’d just get over it, I’ll continue to have the audacity to like myself.   

n.b; I was going to link to Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble video on YouTube here but sadly it would’ve meant subjecting you to an ad from Febreze featuring two women (and zero men) dancing joyfully around a perfect light and child filled home, generally having a marvelous, life-fulfilling time of cleaning.  Obviously I can’t be complicit in that kind of shite so here’s a subversive thrill from Malala Yousafzai instead.  I’m sure you have your own soundtrack that makes you feel great to accompany her, if needs be.

12 Powerful And Inspiring Quotes From Malala Yousafzai: