I’m painting a tree on my wall

Over the past few years, life has changed dramatically. You know, life happens. One of the things has been to get rid of lots of stuff, including furniture. With spare rooms it has been shifted around and with daughters, it has been shifted out. I’ve always leaned towards large pieces of wooden furniture and it has been a substantial effort to move said items.

The result has been a spareness that is pleasing to me. My house looks a little bare. I seem to need to create the space for my mental health and wellbeing and to move on from very painful experiences. It has taken a long time to clear the wall in my kitchen/ living area. Longer to talk myself into painting the wall then believing that I can design and paint the tree.

I drew many trees over the past year before deciding on a curlicue version, much like my doodling. The challenge was then to believe I could transfer it onto my wall. I won’t describe here the many methods and techniques I considered. Eventually, I painted the wall and took chalk to it and began drawing. I erased the first two efforts and the third I am happy with. When finished, I’ll move the family photos to that wall. I’ll let you know how it goes.

img_2562

What spare room?

I have been keeping a spare room. Daughters have slept in it, mother and friends. It’s been good. I’ve kept the animals out of it because not everyone can sleep with a stack of furry bodies. But no longer. Youngest daughter has moved back in and it is now her room. Where will I sort my towels?

There’s been me and three dogs and three cats for the last six months. While what precipitated this alone time was heart-breaking, I have been happy living by myself with my Fluffy Floozies (ergo, ‘fluffy floozies’ collective description for said furry peeps). Now I have to share again.

Oh, I want to, happy to do it, more than happy. It’s just confronting. It’s been 30 years since I lived alone and as a young woman, didn’t do so well. As myself now, did absolutely fine, better than fine. Who knew? It’s been a revelation that I can live happily by myself. I hope it’s equally a revelation that  can live with my youngster again.

So, no spare room for awhile. Day trips are us for the rest of the family. Sharing a bathroom again. Ugh. Oh well, I’m thrilled to have her here, we will see what the future brings.

I’m staying up late…heh heh

Here I am, sitting at my desk at a time of morning I am normally just waking up. I am not enamoured of early morning sounds or light. I admit I have been in times past but I would rather be asleep. I am determinately an owl.

I have always had difficulty in going to bed early. I still have difficultly in going to bed early. I never want to go to bed early or even at a reasonable time. If I have lights out before midnight, it is a surprise. I still have to get up to go to work and really need a nap in the afternoon (not always possible at work, though it is amazing how much I can type with my eyes closed). I seem to function on a certain level of sleep deprivation. Yet, can I make myself go to bed earlier? Nope.

I have good intentions but there is always one more thing to draw, another game to play, one more episode to watch. It’s never, oh I’ll just get these dishes done or I’ll get this floor mopped now. Which would be bizarre but interesting at midnight. No, it’s always play.

Then I go to bed and read. Eventually when I cannot focus on the words any longer, I relax into sleep. Such good habits, if only two hours earlier.

I am completely baffled as to why my good intentions for a proper night sleep are never met. I suspect I never mean to. I often give myself a good pep talk (about everything really) to get myself to bed earlier and then still crawl into bed at midnight. I’m 53, it’s a long standing habit. I reckon I’ll still be doing it when I’m 83.

This year I am giving up insisting that I go to bed earlier. I’m going to let me stay up as late as I want. (That never worked with kids, I doubt it will work with me.) I’m still going to do it though. Stop giving myself a hard time about staying up late. See what happens.

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.

img_0486

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!

 

Storytelling 102

So, how do you move from being a storyteller to a Storyteller?

I am assuming that you know what storytelling is. It is spoken word story that can be told in a variety of styles. My own style is dramatic. There is also trance and physical and a myriad versions in between. There is not exactly a wrong way to tell a story and yet there is. We’ll talk of that another time.

Stories have been handed down through generations and are at the centre of cultures. We tell stories every day, whether anecdotes of family happenings, incidents at work, online news or gossip. The important verb here is ‘tell’. We tell the stories. This is the cornerstone of storytelling and the important thing to remember. We tell stories. Yes, there is spoken word poetry, readers’ theatre and read stories. What Storytellers do is tell stories. How do you remember those stories? We will discuss that later.

I first came across Storytelling at Wonderwings Fairy Shop in 1992 when I dragged a number of friends along to an adult Storytelling. The party room was set up as a forest with a treed mural on the wall and mushroom cushions on the floor. We were served fairy bread and champagne. There was much laughter as we settled in, with some discomfort, unsure of what was to come. I was looking forward to whatever it might be. The Storyteller was Matteo, still telling today, and despite one friend’s determined efforts to distract and actively critique him, he told traditional folk tales. I was fascinated. I loved being told stories. When we pottered about the magical shop afterwards, my friends muttered to me, “You could do that!”

What? Tell stories, for a living? Surely not. I did enquire of Annie, the shop proprietor, who  told me of the Storytelling Guild (now Storytelling Australia Victoria). The idea persisted and I began attending the Storytelling Cafe nights. I was fascinated by the different styles of Telling and the plethora of stories told. It came to crunch point for me. It was time to tell a tale.

The first story I told was the Magic Stones. Having no idea how people went about learning stories, I did it my way. I read many many stories until one struck me as resonant. Once I had the bones of it, I began telling it to myself. Hours of practice saw me ready and finally I stood to tell a tale at the Storytelling Cafe. I was terrified. I told. I survived. I was elated.

Feedback later was that although my style was apparently far more dramatic than most, my story had been enjoyed. Whew. Did I consider myself a Storyteller now? No, I did not.

I have noticed that when people embark on a new endeavour, they are reluctant to name themselves Artist or Writer or Storyteller. Within a year of my first told tale, I produced a solo show (because why tip toe in when you can jump with both feet?). It went well. Over the next ten years, I told in early childhood centres, primary schools, libraries, with adults, ran workshops, facilitated groups and travelled across Victoria with my beautiful storytelling trunk.

Somewhere in that time, I stepped from storyteller to Storyteller. Once a Storyteller, always a Storyteller.

Now, how do you remember stories? We’ll talk about that next time.

 

Storytelling 101

I have been a storyteller for over forty years.

From the age of six I can remember asking my mum for stories and repeating them to myself and others. In my teens, I became the holder of family stories. In my twenties, I began to keep the stories and tell them for the young people I worked with.

As I journeyed through life, I held and told the stories of my workplaces, my family, myself, my children, my life. That is what storytellers do, we hold and tell the stories of our world. Does this make us all storytellers?

Why, yes it does. We use stories to make sense of our lives, to learn and to share. We share our experiences through stories and share stories to capitalise on our experiences.

So what makes a Storyteller different to a storyteller? It depends how far you want to take it.

By the time I was in my twenties, I found that friends were asking me to tell stories of shared experiences. By the time I was in my thirties, my colleagues were giving me stories so I could share them with new staff. As I built my storytelling business, I worked at a large chain warehouse for a few years. Staff from other sections would share incidents that occurred then ask me to re-tell those stories. I worked in the nursery and two of our favourite stories concerned customers who had come asking for unusual plants. A woman came in with her husband and child and explained that she needed a plant that would grow above a metre and half tall and would climb up the fence over a shrub she already had planted there. The plant she wanted had large white flowers and big leaves that it lost in winter and she racked her brain to think of the name. As she spoke I began mentally flicking through the climbers in our stock, when she exclaimed, “Oh! It’s a clitorus!” Surprised silence. “Oh no! That’s exactly what I didn’t want to say!” she was horrified. I laughed, “You mean Clematis?” “Yes, that’s it, a clematis!”, she agreed, red with embarrassment. She bought three. Then there was the man who came to examine olives, insisting that he wanted the one with orange centres. We didn’t laugh then and there, just explained that the one he wanted were pickled and stuffed olives that you could only buy from the supermarket.

From Paint there was the story of the hospital that called wanting to know what was in Cabot’s decking oil as someone had used it for fake tan; and the Hardware story of the irate customer who explained she had laid out the nails from the liquid nail tube but they would not harden to nail in; and on it went. Why me? I remembered the stories and told them with such relish that even those who knew them well, enjoyed hearing them again.

I worked as a travelling Storyteller for ten years, growing my business and developing it into a Storytelling agency. I sold it when life moved me in other directions. Once a Storyteller however, always a Storyteller.

I hold the stories for my children and begin to hold the stories for their children. I hold stories I have been gifted, stories I’ve read, stories I’ve heard, stories I’ve created. Many, many stories live inside my head. My developed storytelling mind lends itself to interesting connections which serves my current employment well.

How do you make the shift from storyteller to Storyteller. I’ll tell you next time.

The Cockatoo Share Store: Community Conversations

As a number of my friends and acquaintances know, I have long wanted to set up a Share Store. This is a social enterprise that is self-sustaining and accesses under-utilised resources within the community.

For example, now that I am down-sizing, I have a large slow cooker, large cast iron frypan, a variety of baking pans, dog crates, spade, shovel, pitch fork and other items that I either no longer use or use infrequently enough that they are just taking up space.

What if I, and everyone else with languishing items, donated these things to a library where people can pay a joining fee and borrow items as needed? When I need my spade, fork and wheelbarrow, I can borrow them for the weekend. When I don’t need them, which is most of the time, others can.

There are numerous tool libraries set up around the world, in fact there has even been software developed for registering items and their hire and return. Tool Libraries are predominantly for tools for gardening and DIY. There are many other resources that can be shared and borrowed, hence the name The Share Store.

The Brunswick Tool Library is one example for automotive, renovating and gardening tools. http://brunswicktoollibrary.org/php/ourtools.php

Research into the development and value of tool sharing (G. Kool, UNSW July 2003) shows just how long tool sharing has been going on in Australia and evaluating the possibility of tool sharing libraries. http://www.changedesign.org/Resources/EDFPublications/Articles/Papers/Tool%20Libraries%20in%20Australia_contents.pdf

Shareable http://www.shareable.net/blog/how-to-start-a-tool-library gives the instructions needed. Local Tools http://localtools.org shows us how to manage a tool library. “Local Tools make it easy to setup and manage rental shops, tool libraries, as well as, lending libraries for tools, kitchen goods, sporting goods, or just about anything.  You can manage inventory and members using a web-based system.  Create community, save time, and help provide access to the things people need.”

An annual fee pays for borrowing rights along with access to the web portal for borrowing. The fees assist ongoing costs, such as, electrical items that have to be tagged and checked each year, plus rent, maintenance and upkeep. A collaboration with the local Mens’ Shed would be in order to repair tools. Our Mens’ Shed sells repaired items at the local market. The Share Store could combine to sell donated items that cannot be hired out.

I’m pretty keen. Who want’s to play?

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?

There was an old woman

There was an old woman who was absolutely sick to death of being treated like a nice old lady.

She was sick of being treated as though she was frail.

She was tired of helpful hands helping her across the street.

She was fed up with lawn bowls and morning tea with the Ladies’ Auxillary.

The old woman decided that it was time to make a change.

To signify this change she bought her very first pair of rainbow coloured leggings. A range of multi-coloured and wildly clashing shirts. A pair of Blundstones and had a very very short haircut.

Now they treated her as though she was a slightly mad nice old lady.

This was not change enough! The old woman decided that drastic action had to be taken.

So she ran away and joined the Circus.

In the circus she learned how to be part of an human pyramid.

She learned to swing on the trapeze, juggle fire and turn somersaults.

When she returned home they no longer treated her as a nice old lady. Oh no.

Now they treated her as though she was a complete lunatic.

For not only did they respect her, they also feared her a little.

Because you see…

they were never quite sure when she would begin to juggle fire or turn somersaults, and they were frightened that she might not know when to stop.

 

Oral Story (C) CLHHarper 1996

Straight-talk parenting

There’s benefit to being a straight talker. People know you mean what you say and say what you mean. Even Youngest Daughter, whose behaviour has been off the charts for nearly three years.

Saturday she went to stay with a friend. I spoke to the mother to make sure it was okay. Then there was some story about the power bill not being paid and no longer able to stay there. Then, gosh, all the phones in the town were flat so she couldn’t call me to come and pick them up, so they slept on the street. Oh yes, you read that right. I was also supposed to believe that story.

I was so glad to have them safe at home, that I focussed on that. Now that some semblance of sanity has returned to YD, I have let her know how nonsensical her story was. She at least had the grace to appear embarrassed and guilty. Good grief. Sleeping on the street! Splutter!

Do you know, if you met me, you would not expect me to have a ‘wayward’ daughter. As a heroin baby, who went into foster care at 5 months for ‘failure to thrive’, then to carer after carer, until coming to me at 3 1/2, she was so angry, so mad at the world, and so full of grief that it was bare survival for both of us for the first nine months. She had thought the previous carers were her family and was absolutely broken that they had given her away. She was convinced for a long time that I must have seen a photo of her and demanded to have her. Her birth mother made it worse, so much worse.

Poor sad baby. What she does know, except when she is crazy and convinced I am exaggerating (her own favourite pass time), is that I am truthful and while she might wish that I would be less honest at times, she knows that she can trust what I say. That’s something isn’t it?

Of course, quite often this means that she tells me more than I want to know. I often feel like putting fingers in my ears and singing lalala loudly. At least she tells me. Right?

So I told her straight up that she was not going to be able to complete Year 8. Year 8, dear God. I gave her the options the meeting at school came up with and she actually chose the one best for her. Oh my goodness, thank you God for great and small mercies. We still have to apply for all the programs and cross our fingers and our toes (our eyes and our noses) that she gets in. She is happy to try to get her life back on track and get some more education (she’s at grade 5 level).

Through all the traumas and events that have happened in my life, YD is the cause of so much angst and concern, so much pain, so many tears, so much upset. I know that how she is a reflection of how she feels about herself. Whenever she is in trouble or upset, she runs straight to me. That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

It is so sad that she feels so bad about herself. I understand how all that has come about, all the abandonment, manipulations and abuse that has occurred to trigger that in her. What I don’t have is any way to fix it.

There is no fixing. I have to have faith. Faith in her resilience. Faith in how much I love her. Faith in her own light within.

I wish for her only happiness. To live a life she loves and is proud of.

Keep the faith.