Monday, 1 January 2018

New Years Eve


Yesterday we had a friend over for dinner and to see the London Eye fireworks from the hill we live on. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it as I had got myself tired out by the anger I felt at tidying up alone (something it would be worth going into and through at a later date). But as it happens, he opened the conversation at an unusually deep level, talking about how he had changed over the years; how he saw us and our childrearing in relation to him and his; our life stage as we are both seeing our children differentiate themselves from us and leaving home. 

These are the things I like to think about. (As you may have noticed!) But that I suddenly realise I rarely actually speak about, even to my profoundly understanding husband. Not through any fault of his, but through fear of exposing my inner tenderness to any outside influence, in case I lose myself. In fact I didn't talk about my thoughts of this kind yesterday either, as one of my daughters came in and I wasn't sure about her hearing them. 

This morning I crave more opportunities for this kind of conversation. It reminds me of this quote from Rumi:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. 

It will not lead you astray.

I am certainly feeling the familiarly strange pull of this. It is certainly one of the draws of mental health work for me. Time to arrange more conversations like this, starting with being more open about them with G. 

On reflection, much of my conversation with G in the last year has been about my health, or about his work situation, and not very much about the changes I am making in my life and my self. So at breakfast this morning I talked to him about my meditating twice daily. About how my intention had been to contain my emotional reaction to having cancer and cancer treatment, and to learn the lessons of it. That I am well on the way to seeing it not as the worst thing that could have happened to me, but against expectations the best. 

His response was warm and not very surprised. A future with more deep conversations looks possible.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

No one else can

This morning, impatient and irritated with my husband who could see I was not feeling good and kept getting in my way wanting to hug me/ massage me/ reassure me. He is lovely that way. But inside, in me, it didn't feel right.

It was as if we were acting out a father-child scene where I was the unhappy child and he was the all-knowing all-loving father who could cure me of the unhappiness with the warmth of his hug. Although it came from a loving place in him, it reduced me.

It was like we were acting out this kind of relationship...

found on Pinterest, with no source, apologies to Marinela Reka
Now this is a lovely sentiment for a little girl, but when you get to middle age and this is the kind of relationship you have with your husband, I think you'll agree it's overdue time to reassess. The obvious truth is that, however lovely and caring, if I'm only getting what he thinks I need, I will never get what I actually need.

So the lesson for today was that now, if I need comfort, I am the one responsible for giving it to myself. If I need patience, or strength, or direction, or reassurance that I am doing the right thing, NO ONE ELSE CAN give it to me.

Only I am capable of it.

So only I am responsible for it.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Being not doing

As you might have guessed from the long hiatus, my happiness project was suspended. Not because I stopped caring, but because I was diagnosed with cancer. (I will tell more about that another day, no doubt.) Now, after a long period of treatment, I have gone from a D to an A cup and thank God, along the way I have learned what was wrong with my happiness project.

This cartoon describes the situation with accuracy and succinctness.
It came from medium
I particularly like the square wheels, suggesting to anyone who sees it that he is making life unnecessarily hard for himself.

Surely it's obvious, you say, that you can't recover from tiredness by trying harder? Well, like the man in the cartoon, it has not been obvious to me. All my life I have been telling myself that if only I tried harder, I would be better at living. If I only tried hard enough, and directed my efforts in the right direction, I would find my groove where I would be at home and flourish. My problem, I thought, was not that I was trying too hard for my own good, but that I was lazy, or somehow flawed. I compared myself to other people who didn't seem to be so exhausted, and thought, 'what have they got that I haven't got?', and envied their superior metabolisms. By the time I went off sick from work I was sure that I was some kind of emotional cripple who would have to be content with a very curtailed kind of life in order to stay able to get out of bed.

After a long time of thinking and doing this, your body, which has been giving you all the heavy hints that it can, eventually sticks its heels in.  The donkey image I used early on in my collapse was a good one. 

So, how do you help the donkey that has collapsed from being overloaded one too many times? By giving it stricter rules about what to do every day? Perfecting its daily timetable to help it have energy when it most needs energy? Setting up a system of rewards for carrying heavier and heavier loads?

Not really. Those are the things that got it so tired in the first place.

What this donkey needs is a rest, some good moist grass, a bit of stroking. It's obvious. It needs to stop DOING things. So it can remember what it is like to just BE.

And what about that bit of the image that I ignored the first time I posted it - the cruelty of the driver who beat it when it faltered? I had been thinking of the driver being out there, over there, another country, another culture, another gender, another whatever it takes for them to be different from me. 

But from this perspective, I am my own driver. I have been ignoring my own pleas for rest and comfort. I have been the cause of my own pain.

The question of how you get that way, and how I learn how to be, not just do, comes in other posts. Because I am tired and need a break. Hehehe.

PS A human being not a human doing is I believe a quote from Kurt Vonnegut (not from various other people who have put their name to it on the internet). It's one of those aphorisms that appears simple but explains a whole mess of life stuff. It's my motto for 2018.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Sketching an idea for INTJ

Yesterday I updated my website, and reminded myself about 'Through a glass darkly' 1 & 4 which are up there on show. They started as an exploration of what happens colour and other things when the light is low. But in the context of my overarching theme, it describes how in travers are seen - as if through a distorting fog. 

This led me to thinking about how an INTJ might look decisive and definite ( perhaps back and white stripes going vertically?) but looking more closely one can see the cogs turning. But the detail of their actions are hidden from us mostly, by their complexity, and by the inwardness of this process. 

I started trying to draw this idea today, using sharpies for the cogs - bright colours and complexly different sizes and connections. They would have to have some more broad pattern in the final thing. 

Then I thought I would try putting layers of suitably blacked up tracing paper over to simulate the outer layer. This didn't work quite so well as triple or quadruple layers of tracing paper make it whiter, not blacker. 

I coloured some of the tracing paper with oil pastel, which gave a good impression of the table grain, but not very black, decisive etc. 

I tried lamp black artists watercolour on it, which was too dark to show anything, so diluted it serially till there was a range of black/greys in vertical stripes.

This was better, but still too grey. 

So the problem I have for next time is how to make the outer layer black and white striped and still see the cogs between, without the cogs being too visible in the white stripes and not enough in the black ones. 

I also think that for this one the fineness of texture is important. Smooth. So weaving in the usual sense is out. 

I'm thinking that the inside will be a scaffolding structure for the cogs, with a resonance with ribs and spine, perhaps, and entirely non-wearable. 

Link to my website 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Rethinking 'Take a break and notice'

On reflection, it's obvious that 'take a break and notice' means 'notice what is good about my world'. So here's a short list for today:

My husband is in the kitchen cooking
My daughter and I had a really good hug this morning

Finally settling on a style of clothing that suits me

I am a proper artist as I have something
in an exhibition!

OK, that was fun! I will definitely do more of that!

Monday, 10 October 2016

KEY 2: TAKE A BREAK AND NOTICE - and a schedule

Oxford Happiness Score 3.10

Noticing that this is the last of the ten keys that I got round to.
I thought it would just come naturally. Things that I have associated with it in my head are nature, counting your blessings, seeing the little things, and meditation. These obviously don't come naturally to me!

I also had another think about what kind of person I am, and how I can work with that, and this morning what I came up with was this - that my strength is the way I think about things, see patterns, see how things will turn out, and integrate stuff that other people don't think can be integrated. But how do you encourage the use of this talent? By spending an hour or more a day with as close to sensory deprivation as possible.

Well, I have known this for a while but haven't tried it. 
I've half tried it, plugging in headphones and meditating in a public place. 
That was relaxing, cleared my mind, but it wasn't the thing.

I've also noticed that this week I haven't been feeling quite so positive, and it is slowly dawning on me that this is because I haven't been prioritising these happiness keys in the way I was before. I have also not been working in the same direct way on my boundaries, with the result that lots of other things that other people need from me have started crowding in on me, and derailing me. Since I'm still not even up to 'normal' on the oxford happiness scale (which would be 4), I need to keep it up for longer. 

So today I made a timetable. The principles to it are:
- First thing I get up gently, write my journal, stretch, shower and do something towards grooming myself
- The morning will be spent working on one of my greater goals (this morning it was exploring the research into compassion and outcomes in health).
-  After a healthy lunch and vitamins with whoever's in the house, I will have 'nap time' for one and a half hours in my quiet dark warm bedroom. It is called nap time so that everyone knows not to disturb me.
- The rest of the afternoon is for practical arrangements of all kinds, and exercise. And planning what I will do and wear tomorrow. Today I used it for housework, making food, paying bills, and dyeing second hand clothes (and my hands unfortunately)
- After dinner is for being with the family, quietly noticing and reflecting, and doing sewing/ reading. Bed at 10.
- When I notice something that needs doing, I will leave it till my practical time, or write a note to sort out a way to resolve it later. 

It feels good to have sorted this out, and especially for doing the morning's work - a huge sense of achievement. This is the first time I've ever timetabled housework, and it gives me a lovely sense of release when it's NOT practical tasks time. 

Nap time turned into a nap but resulted in my having some excellent thoughts, including: 

It's great you are willing to spend 

as much time as you need 

with yourself.

I'm always trying to do that for my children, but have not at all been doing it for myself. This is the time to make it into a habit. 

Not sure this is what 'take a break and notice' is supposed to mean, but it's good for me.

Sunday, 2 October 2016


So today I learned more about how to discover your purpose, through a minicourse by
Genuine Youniversity

I found it much more useful and interesting than I had initially, as this guy is not just talking about one way of working out what you're interested in, he's got a whole quiverful of tests, as well as putting a lot of thought into what your purpose is, what it looks like, and how it affects you as you develop it.

I particularly like that there's a whole page about how to have more fun. I know for sure that feeling a bit whimsical about it helped me no end in getting my The turnip god sees all exhibited. Having fun is not something that I do a lot of, and I certainly would enjoy having more, but part of the reason for it is that if you are doing something that takes your whole attention and feels timeless, then it will be a good idea of something that would contribute well to your purpose.

The tests seem like useful tools and I have done two of them so far. The first was about what your body is trying to tell you, which, it turns out, what that it's time to stop biting my tongue, as that gets in the way of me getting what I need! 

I immediately went and told someone that I prefer it when they don't leave white spirit and paint on the kitchen table during meals, and that was not welcome, which upset me greatly. I need to put some thinking time into the best way to get the response I am hoping for, without causing too much upset, or backing down myself.

The other was a more intellectual exercise which I got quite carried away with and seemed to be telling me something, but in fact I think I need to do the rest of them before I narrow down on my actual 'purpose'.

I'll do them now....

What my version of this exercise looks like 

Well, that was amazing. I've been pacing around excitedly saying 'OH, YES!' and 'Oh my GOODNESS!' because doing this one has done what I did not think could be done - it has made me know what I want! Wow. And it has made sense of the previous exercises as it strangely encapsulates all of them.

I immediately started laughing because I have so many things around me that tell me this is where I want to be going, it's kind of ridiculous that I didn't know it this way before. I've immediately taken a small but important step that I wouldn't have taken before this exercise.

It also told me a lot of other things in my life that a little attention could improve greatly.

Wow, I love this course.

Happiness Score today 3.31