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.

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.

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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.

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?