The Jumbly Man – an Instrospective

I have been invited to enter one of my Jumbly Man tales for an anthology. I am so happy that someone likes him. His stories only appear on this blog and no-one has ever mentioned it before, so I stopped putting them up. There are so many of them.

Often when someone reads a piece of writing for you, they feel obliged to critique it, rather than just enjoy the characters. That’s true even of told stories. I recently told one of my short tales to a friend and she was completely baffled by it and labelled it ‘cute’. I suspect she is trapped in the idea that storytelling is just for children. It was not a child’s story I told her. I find with people like this, you have to sit back and wait for the immersion and conversion.

Told stories are significantly different to read stories. In a read story, I can picture what is happening and see it for myself. There are occasions where what is being read in the story is so intense, I have to put the book down for a time. I know not everyone experiences reading a story like that and not everyone can visualise. When you are told a story, it is mesmerising. You cannot take your gaze or your ears away. You can experience a full gamut of emotions and the intimacy of being told a story and what you visualise for yourself is entrancing. So it is for me and all of the storytellers I know. It is not the same experience as going to the theatre (fourth wall and all that). Your audience is right in front of you, you are looking into their eyes, telling the story to them. If you have not experienced storytelling as an adult, I highly recommend it.

The Jumby Tales are not told stories. Yes, I visualise them, I see him, Deirdre and all the events as I write. I know his full story to old age, even if I haven’t written it down yet. Even so, he is not a told story. One of the tales that spins off and crosses over his is though. What makes the difference? Is it that the protagonist in the told story is female? Possibly. Is it that the told story has implications for me that weave in and out of my history and identity while not actually my personal story. Maybe. It will be a written tale too, eventually. I have been working on it for two years and there is still some way to go. I hope to complete it and perform in the next year.

Adam Jumbles though, I am so pleased that someone likes him as I do. I do hope one of his stories gets into the anthology and is shared. He deserves it.

Perpetually broke, almost – an Introspective

This is a world problem. I am not complaining, I am not even shaking my head at myself. I am wondering how we manage and the strength of the political and corporate will to keep the population perpetually broke, almost.

I recently turned 55. 55! and the magic didn’t happen. I did not automatically become a financially responsible grandma. Nope, it didn’t. Sure, I pay my mortgage, bills, owings and have enough food. I have enough. Except savings, I don’t have those. I re-mortgaged last year and the bank, in it’s wisdom, offered me a mortgage that would make sure it was paid out by retirement at 65 (yes! only ten years to retirement!). However, this makes my mortgage nearly half my income. That’s a lot.

I’ve done everything you are supposed to do, reviewed my bills, taken up steady payment options, reduced my insurance costs and still I cannot make headway. Heaven forbid, I go out for a meal or to a cafe, there really isn’t extra. Or pay my rego or an extra bill? Nothing left, and I have to borrow $50 to get to my next pay. And food costs? Oh my goodness! I grow and purchase food from the Community Grocer and support other food sharing initiatives.

This is not a whinge about how badly I am off, I am not. I earn a reasonable pay and live modestly. This is a shaking of the head that if I am finding it this difficult to manage, and all my children have left home, how are others with dependants making ends meet? I struggled as a single parent and am struggling now. I am asking myself, is this really because I am hopeless with money or is this symptomatic of an economic system that foists all costs onto its people, despite the level of taxes and contributions we make?

We have politicians who are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and creating a punitive society where the poor are punished. Recent data from the Rental Affordability Snapshot showed how little people on Newstart had available to survive on and that there was 0.01% of affordable housing options for them. We have elderly people turning up at our door at work, unable to pay their bills and buy food. We have people with disabilities unable to juggle finances in this terrible transition period to NDIS. We have families in our Shire going without meals every week. (12% in a Shire of 105,000 people is a lot of people going hungry.) And we have average families, like me, who no longer have capacity to save and just barely keep the starving Drop Bears from the door.

There is something very very wrong here. Very wrong indeed.

Surprise hospital visit – an Introspective

Went to the doctor this afternoon to talk about changing medications and happened to mention strange feelings I’d been having in my chest. Should’ve kept my mouth shut.

Here I am in hospital, awaiting tests that will probably tell me I’m fine. I admit my heart flutters, breathlessness and clammy sweats have not been the most delightful companions. However denial is my forte. I have always believed that if you deny something for long enough, it’ll give up & let you be. The fact that this has never been proven true is beside the point. I’m a wait until it can’t be denied type of woman.

There’s nothing yet but they are taking it very seriously. I did ask my GP if going to hospital could wait until morning. He gave me the hairy eyeball & just said, no. And, someone else had to drive me. I’d been driving all day! Admittedly a little gaspy and distracted but still. So here we are, waiting for the chest X-ray and blood test results.

Okay, here’s the latest, heart is okay! Excellent. They are still working on what is going on but I knew it! I win again!

Blueprints: an Introspective

One of the things that really annoys me is how things that happened so long ago still have impact now.

I understand that our foundation story is deeply routed into our brains and our smaller selves can get trapped in the ruts. It can take all our skill as learned adults to get our smaller selves out of those ruts and moving in a positive and healthy directions.

Our foundation stories keep coming up throughout our lives in our various interactions and experiences, as they are our blueprints and how we recognise our relationships. Changing the blueprints is a lifetime of work.

It annoys me that things my adoptive mother did so many decades ago can still have impact. She’s ancient. I’m well and truly middle-aged. I have a deep seated anger toward her that I rarely touch. I also have deep seated pain that I let go and let go and let go.

I have been through periods with my own adult children where they have been busy separating and blaming. I understand that this is a process we all go through. I am grateful that they have matured and we have settled into adult relationships that are mutually supportive. I did not do to them what my mother did to me and my siblings.

What happens when your parent is the cause of significant damage for you? When they put you into such appalling situations of abuse that the blueprints are disastrous? Those blueprints may never be able to be altered. They get shelved. They get dusty. They get frayed and torn at the edges. They are still there.

I have no resolution for this, I’m just irritated. I cannot allow myself to even think about my mother. It makes me sad, especially when I consider what I have with my girls, whom I adore. They are truly wonderful people (and yes, I know I am biased). I wish my mother thought that of me.

And therein lies the niggling doubt. No matter how much I appreciate myself and am grateful for my resilience and strength, the foundation person in my life does not consider me a person of worth. There it is, that thread of doubt that it might be true.

Ahh, now that I know what it is that taints my blueprints, maybe I can get them off the shelf and find those threads and erase them.

My artwork on my skin: an Introspective

At the age of fifty I realised that the long desired tattoo had not been etched upon my skin because I hadn’t drawn it yet.

This was a revelation. I had started drawing and painting again to soothe my mind and develop skills to illustrate my own stories. I had already e-published one of my stories, having purchased photographs from a skilled wildlife photographer. I decided I wanted to do my own illustrations and pencils grew from my hands.

I doodle all the time, if I am not using my hands for anything else. It seems to be a point of fascination in meetings at work, with the mistaken belief that I am not listening, until I say something precisely on point. Doodling keeps my anxiety, at being in a room full of people, at bay. It keeps my “busy mind” occupied, so I can focus on the discussion. More on doodling another time

When my drawing and thoughts of tattoos coincided, I realised that I needed to draw my own tattoos. I had always wanted a tattoo but never liked anyone’s artwork enough to have it needled into my flesh. I started drawing tattoo ideas.

Butterflies are one of my many favourite things. I drew butterfly after butterfly while I searched for an artist whose tattoos I liked. Found one, showed her my drawings, discussed exactly where I wanted it and we were away. I let her have free reign and we were both happy with the result. Original artwork, inspired by my own art, etched into my skin.

The really interesting thing was it didn’t hurt. Not one bit. I had researched where the least painful parts of the body were for tattooing and knew that I wanted to give my hump wings (you know the hump at the back of the neck that comes from too much slouching and reading). It was just right.

I knew that I wanted my next tattoo, knew what I wanted it to be and figured out an approximate cost. I decided they would be an annual birthday gift to myself. The next tattoo was of a seahorse with wings. I played with this image for a long time and came across another artist closer to home. I visited her at the studio and liked her, her art and the studio more. Her take on my design was more appropriate for a tattoo. My drawings and paintings were much softer, her’s are striking. I love my winged seahorse, he divinely sits on my back right shoulder, waiting patiently.

This year I had a round-bellied, silver teapot with a flannel flower design needled into my skin and I discovered that when you tattoo your non-dominant side, it hurts, rather a lot. I am right handed and the work on the back of my neck and my right shoulder became intense but not at all painful. The teapot was painful. Very. It is also perfect.

I have been wondering why I am willing to endure the needles, hours of it, wounding my skin for the image to be permanently placed there. I feel the wounding is necessary as the wound heals and in its place there is an image of my own artwork, on my skin. This is uplifting and delighting in a way I don’t quite know how to express. Every time I catch a glimpse of my work (and I look a lot), I am pleased all over again.

There are many associations with each of the images I have placed. They are also part of what will be a whole piece when I am done. I don’t know that I will ever put my tatts in a place for others to see easily. The only time others see them is in summer or when I am in my bathers (as I swim frequently, they are frequently seen, usually by the grey-haired set, keeping their curls dry. That’s another story.). I don’t have tattoos for others, I have them for myself. Each piece and placement has more than one significance. The next piece will be on the painful side too. I’ve already drawn it.

One question I am often asked is why they are on my upper back where I can’t see them? I can see my upper back by turning my head or looking in the mirror. Don’t other people look at their backs? The pieces are for me, not anyone else. They signify things for me. They elicit a range of stories, memories and concepts for me that are pleasurable. Isn’t it curious that people seem to think I have created them for others? I confess to not really understanding that. They are mine, I know they are there, I know what they signify and I know the whole piece it will become.

This is artwork designed by me, inspired by my design that I get to wear. It has taken more than half my life to get to this place and there is such freedom in it.

When to grieve and not to grieve: an Introspective

As we grow older, we gather layers of grief. Grief is a strange beast, best let have it’s way. It ebbs and flows like tidal waters under a glowing moon. It creates its own patterns to your days, the late hours, when we are tired and at our most vulnerable, are when the currents are strongest.

How we deal with grief builds resilience or swallows us whole. For me, living each day with loss means I need routine and happy habits, I need work to distract me and I need times to reflect.

Acknowledging grief is not easy to do. What is it every Australian says when asked how they are? Fine. I’m fine. Truly I am. I’m full of gratitude for my little house, my fluffy peeps, my kids, my work and my interests. I am fine. What I also am is quite lost, quite often.

I have learnt that this is okay. It waxes and wanes, ebbs and flows. A morning I have to convince myself to get out of bed and go to work can brighten into a day of laughter. A day which has started well can drag on and go downhill. I have remedies for these.

Every day I dash home from work and take my three little dogs to the off lead dog park. There we play ball, meet their doggy friends and chat with their humans. I love being down there. It’s  a peaceful piece of bush, with a brisk creek running through, which dogs and small people enjoy.

I make sure I have plenty of berries. Full of vitamin C, low in fructose and delicious, they cheer me up and ensure I don’t resort to lollies or chocolate. I ring friends to see how they are and what they are up to. It’s good to hear other people’s stories. I take myself out for coffee.

I spend time thinking about good memories with the loved one lost. I count my blessings and sometimes I cry. Not often, I don’t like crying, but sometimes it is just the thing to do. I do what I need to do and move with the flow.

From brown to grey in a few short years

Very recently, Youngest Daughter, re-posted a photo of me from 2009. I looked so much younger than I do know. A lot has happened over the past eight years and I am completely grey. (I tell Youngest Daughter that she is responsible. heh!)

I don’t mind being older, in fact I relish it. There is so much that once used to bother me that now doesn’t. My hair being grey? Looks good. Other people’s opinions? Who cares? What I relish most is what I know. Feeling down? It will pass. Sliding into a depression? I have the skills now to balance out. Stressed out about kids, work, house, elderly animals? I can deal.

All that ‘dealing’ has been hard won. Does it sometimes get on top of me despite my best efforts? Totally. Do I break under the strain? Sometimes. Do I know that I can get back up? Absolutely. At times it seems to take me longer, I don’t bounce back any more. ‘Getting back up’ can be laborious and take some serious determination. Do I pep-talk myself every morning to get up and get going? Yes. Do I have internal debates about every effort? Yes. Do I do it anyway? Yes, I do.

I am better at what is good for me and better at not giving up. Sometimes it takes an inordinate amount of time to figure how to get things done with limited resources (for example, gigantic dresser down to Middle Daughter’s place without strong people to help), and I eventually succeed. I am better at knowing when one thing extra is too much or when one thing extra will be just the thing. Falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from work? Go to sleep or take dogs for walk? I take the dogs for their walk. I feel this deserves cheering!

My reluctance to socialise does not concern me any longer. I work with people five days a week, belong to committees and volunteer. Enough people. Being at home, peacefully with my fluffy peeps is the best.

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Today is Sunday and I am tired. (Yesterday was exhausting, searching for missing child.) I will take the dogs for a walk after this, then have another cup of tea. I will do some shopping (yuck) and housework (double yuck) and rest because it’s back to work tomorrow.

Yes, I like being older. I am sad that I have physically aged so much but vanity was never my concern. I do wish I had more pep. I know that I will still get done that which needs to be done and the selectivity between need and want will prune the extraneous. It may take me longer but I get there in the end.

Grey hair rules!

 

Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do? An Introspective.

It’s been awhile since I was writing regularly. I suffer from severe anxiety and chronic severe depression. (If anyone has read my parenting blogs, you’ll know some of the triggers.) I hate being depressed. Being a passionate and compassionate person, I hate not caring. Being someone who finds many things funny and enjoys laughing inappropriately, I hate having no laughter. I also hate the medication but I endure because feeling depressed is far worse.

I live on my ideas, enthusiasm and feelings. We all do. The meds dampen all that. This must be endured until the light is seen again. (I once wrote a very bad poem called The Abyss which describes my descent into depression. It’s on this blog because good judgement goes out the window when depressed.)

We humans need to think of mental illness as an injury from which one has to recover. However it is triggered, falling into any episode requires healing time. If we would only treat mental illness as an illness, we could recover more easily, as individuals and community.

I am currently off meds, for the first time in ten years. How awesome is that? Some pretty hairy things have happened (see Parenting blogs) and I have coped. How fabulous is that? I am wondering if this period is petering out? It followed the break up of my marriage, my father’s death and a rad hysterectomy due to years of suffering endometriosis. All of that is enough to plunge anyone into depression. Add to that caring for foster children on my own and dealing with their birth parents on my own plus permanent caring teens, while working full time to provide for everyone. However, my bouts go back a long long way. (My story about my growing up is elsewhere on this blog, I won’t re-tell it here.)

I wonder if there is a period as we transition into older middle age (I am 52) where the rites of passage no longer exist and we suffer accordingly? Obviously my anxiety and depression were exacerbated by surgical menopause and the other things that happen in life at middle age. How curious is it that most women and many men go through these mid life crises? How strange is the radical increase in diagnosis of mental illness, particularly for this age group?

What have we lost here? Is it like teens, where the rite of passage to adulthood has been lengthened and made impossible? Is there a rite of passage from your younger adult to middle-aged self to older middle aged? Will we go through this again when we become seniors? I don’t want to.

I will have to think on this. If you have thoughts, let me know. I am wondering, when my working life is finished, how will I transition to senior? The transition to single, older middle aged working woman/ mum/ grandma has been excruciating. What will the transition be like in another 18 years? I assume I’ll have to work to 70, as you know, money.

Do we need a rite of passage for menopause, for middle age? Do we need to define this period of life as …. something. I am still working, running a house, caring for kids the same as I did through the past two decades but I am different. I am different. I am not the same.

What do you think?

Blogging: An Introspective

It’s been quite awhile since I have blogged. You may surmise from my previous post that I have not had a lot of head space for thinking of anything else but Youngest Daughter. Between suspensions, near expulsion, dope, alcohol and cigarettes that resulted in a new school and new challenges, my head and heart have indeed been full.

Interestingly, blogging began as a way to develop my writing and I have many stories that have yet to see the light of this screen. Then I started painting and drawing again. The pictures I have shared here have been surpassed and it continues to be a way for me to explore and process a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff. I read other blogs as I am interested and so very curious to know about others’ experiences and thoughts. I am passionate about so many things. I hate when I drop into a depression and care about nothing. My curiosity drives me to speak to people I don’t know and ask about activities I haven’t experienced. Only this morning, two women were peering into the back of a car. I couldn’t stand it, I had to know what they were looking at. Laughing at myself, I walked up and asked. Two absolutely mud caked dogs were in the back of the car. They were so caked the mud had dried in splatters and stiff points. They, the bad dogs, had been banished to the rear, the naughty dogs were on the back seats and the good little girl was in the front. All were rescues. Now I have more people to smile and chat to. I love a small town. Mind you, I was on my way down to the park and my own small fluffy floozy of a dog went wading in the creek and got a muddy tide mark.

Which bring me back to (I had no segue) blogging. It’s fun, interesting, satisfies my curiosity about oh so many things, and I get to share in ways I would not normally. How strange is that? The buffer of the screen is not really a buffer at all and yet we share intensely personal thoughts, feelings and experiences through blogging. I, for one, want to say thank you to all the bloggers who have considered topics I have no-one to discuss them with, and thank you to the many comments in the blogs I read that can leave me snorting with hilarity.

I guess when all is said and done, we blog for ourselves. Yep, that’ll do. I’m off to the studio now to paint.

Perspective, Perception and Expectations: An Introspective

I am thinking about the crossover between perspective, perception and expectations. How what we see is what we get. I am outside with my daughter’s 6 month old kitten and hoping that he stays in the yard. He’s had his op, his microchip, no collar (my poodle uses cat collars as handles for dragging) and I am just a little concerned he might disappear before I can catch him.

My perspective is this is an adventure that could go very wrong. My expectation is that he will want to explore too far and my perception is that I am being over anxious, especially as he comes every time I call. Oops, first stalking of a bird. He is getting an enclosure and will only ever be out supervised. See? Perception: cats are killers. Expectation: he will catch a bird if he can. Perspective: I can be a responsible cat carer and environmentalist. Does my perspective alter my perceptions and expectations? No. My perspective demonstrates my commitment to both, hence cat enclosure and supervised outdoor time. Fences, dogs next door, my own Fluffy Floozy dogs giving him a chase, keep my perspective bounded. I hope. As long as he doesn’t go under the house.

I’ll try for a clearer example. Years ago I married. A lovely young woman. I was a young woman too and I was absolutely besotted. She seemed like such fun, full of life and adventure. When we wanted to have a ceremony, because she wanted the surety of commitment, i assented and asked friends to join us. They were horrified. None of them wanted to participate. It wasn’t the wedding aspect, it wasn’t the commitment, it was her. No-one said to me, don’t do it, she’s nuts. No-one tried hard to dissuade me at all. A few did question closely why I wanted to do it. I was doing it for her. I was absolutely broken-hearted that no-one wanted to join in. Maybe some did, but my crushed expectations altered my perception of my friends and my perspective of friendship. Within a year, I had a whole new barrel load of friends and I was married.

Within 6 years I could see that things were not working. I understood that she had lied to me about numerous things to make her appear more agreeable. I came to understand that my perception of her was clouded by my perspective of relationships and my expectation of how we would travel along together. I realised that how she operated was vastly different to myself and the compatibility I had perceived was a fabrication. By whom? Both of us. Her through lying and mine through my own expectations. It took me a further 7 years to extricate myself, they were bad years and not what I wanted. I was clear from the outset that I wanted children and to grow a life together, which included a business. She said yes yes yes, until it became clear that she didn’t mean a word of it. I said we foster together or I foster alone. I’ve been on my own with the kids for 12 years now.

The young woman inside of me who fell in love with the young woman inside of her, still loves. Love is a creative energy, you can never run out. However the grown woman who looks at my ex and sees the needy person she is, so greedily grasping for people’s time, energy and refrigerators, is not someone I would allow in my life now. Now my perspective has changed. I understand that we can love someone and not allow that person in our lives because how they are choosing to live and the person they are choosing to be. My perception of myself as a individual of worth who deserves honest and respectful relationships has changed. My perspective of the landscape of my life has shifted. I never wanted to be a single parent but I would rather be on my own than shackled to a relationship where I end up unrecognisable to myself.

More recently this has occurred with my ex foster son. For ten years I raised and loved that boy, taught him (he has autism and functioned poorly when he came to live with me), cared for him and was proud of him. He showed me a young man who was caring, could love, form relationships, be insightful and would lend a hand. I’m still so proud of the steps he dug into the hill for me, closer together so I could step down them easily. He could be so very kind. Eighteen months ago he started changing but would not tell me what was wrong. There was always a nasty streak but doesn’t everyone have that? I chose to see him as my lovely boy so was much troubled by his nastiness. His desperation for a girlfriend culminated in meeting a woman online, 9 years his senior, who came from interstate and took him away. I was devastated but gave them a farewell dinner and planned to keep in touch. Over the year he morphed into someone I didn’t recognise. Someone who chose to return to calling me by my name but never had the courage to discuss it with me, who called one of his ex foster sisters an “attention seeking whore” and his youngest ex foster sister a “black slut”. This is the tip of the iceberg. I have moved through profound shock and grief over the past year as this unrecognisable person stomped in his hob nailed boots all over our hearts.

My perspective was that he was my boy. My perception of him was not that he was perfect but that he could be kind, loving, caring and thoughtful. My expectation was that he would continue to be a member of our family. I love him. He can never take away the ten years he was my boy. However I will not have the person he has chosen to be anywhere near my life. The abuse was such that I had to get my solicitor to write to them to tell them to leave us alone.

What’s interesting here is how thwarted expectations cause the most pain and it is our perspective of relationships and our perceptions of individuals that have to shift. Doesn’t mean we don’t love them but sometimes it does mean that we have to set them free.

The kitty? Yep. He’s gone under the house to explore where I cannot get him. I’m off to get a can of tuna. I perceive that he’s a cat and I know he loves tuna. I hope my expectations, of enticing him with it, are right this time.

P.S. He came out just after I finished writing. Oh, the power of food.