The garden looks really good just now. My sister takes care of it every weekend, and I’m amazed at how neat and pretty it is. When I peek out the back door and smell lilac, I understand why gardeners love what they do. There’s something sane, calm and peaceful about the outdoor landscape… it’s an escape for practical, hard-working people.
It makes me yearn to be that kind of person too.
I’m more the kind of person who strolls around with a camera and feels happy at the beauty other people have created. Unfortunately, Scotland doesn’t like us to have heatwaves for very long, and there’s a lot of dreich weather at the moment. Yesterday it couldn’t make up its mind between strong sun, drenching rain, and the occasional bolt of lightning. Today it decided to go ‘all rain’… dark grey clouds parading overhead with shimmering sheets of crystals dangling from their misty earlobes.
When the day was at its darkest, I came across a monster snail clinging to the upstairs window. It reminded me of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… water all around and this muscular, glistening creature seeking a way in. Visualizing its fellows squirming all over the house, roof and all, I could understand my mother’s utter abomination of them. She gets the same look on her face that Ripley gets in Alien.
If you were on a spaceship with those things on it, you’d do better with her as a shipmate than me.
I don’t mind the odd snail or group of snails, but we have too many. They slither all over — slugs too — and roll on their backs, drinking in the downpours.
The other night I was trying to move a wheelie bin without stepping on a single invertebrate, and it was impossible. I swear there was either a slug or a snail trekking across each square foot of ground, and because it was dark, I couldn’t even see them all. Despite the best I could do, the bin and I left a trail of devastation in our wake.
Have I complained about this before? I’ve a feeling I have.
Anyhow, with the lowering weather, some sadness, and a general feeling of being under siege, it seemed a good day to activate my online CBT account.
“What’s that?” you say, suddenly looking nervous. “CBT??”
Our GP thinks it might help combat my chronic anxiety, but I ignored the activation request for two weeks. I could always think of something better to do! I don’t have raging agoraphobia any more, but I’ve had a traumatic few years… it’s like a sleeping Leviathan stirring. If it comes up again, it could be bad.
I don’t like cognitive behavioural therapy. I’ve tried it before and it left me bemused. I felt more stressed attending the sessions than at any other time, so I cut them short.
I have to confess, when I read that I would need to have a working printer in order to do the current course, I was irritated. We have ours loaded with 100gsm stuff. I was determined not to start the course till I’d dived out and bought the cheapest paper I could find — 75gsm. I put that in on top.
OK, well, I activated the CBT course today, answered a raft of multiple choice questions, then it suddenly stopped, and I was confused. It just told me I would need an up-to-date Flash Player (which I’ve got) in order to be able to view my sessions, but I couldn’t see any other links, or a home page, or even a bit of text saying “thank you — see you next week!” or something of the kind.
Is this typical NHS behaviour?
I’ve had similar emails when asking for appointments… no ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ or individual names… just come straight to the point then drop out of sight. You can imagine the staff rushing around like busy ants, so you don’t really resent it, but it’s still a little… leaves you feeling like one of those cartoon characters who was walking on rock and is now pedalling in mid-air.
Thinking about it, it was just the ‘activation’ I was engaged in… if I went back, the first session would be there waiting.
Perhaps it’s all one big cryptic puzzle designed to keep me engaged trying to figure it out so that I don’t have time to stress about anything. There was a multiple choice question I didn’t understand at all, and the only way I could dodge it was to pick the most non-committal response. I felt like turning to someone and saying, “Sorry, what do you mean?” Instead, I said it to the empty room.
I should raise that question with them in case it turns out to be something important… or is that typical catastrophic thinking? What significance could a single, vaguely-worded question have? I gave them a vaguely-worded response… fair dos.
Meanwhile, none of this helped the cats with their own issues. They sat miserably at the back door, looking out at the slurping snails. As far as they’re concerned, this type of day shouldn’t be allowed.
If we were having coffee, I would apologize for not being around so much recently. Being polite, you would ask what I’ve been up to, and I would say well, nothing much. However, on a flip-through of my journal for the month of April, the following is revealed:
LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED
I was sorting books (yet again) and found:
‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened‘ (Jenny Lawson)
“…she learns that life’s most absurd and humiliating moments, the ones we wish we could pretend had never happened, are the very same moments that make us who we are.”
I often get cold feet about my own blog. I do value it, so could try again with a simple coffee post.
KEEPING WHAT’S MOST PRECIOUS
I want to keep the large padded footstool if possible, and had the sudden impulse to stick a blue Post-It note on it. That reminded me of Frasier telling his father and brother to put labels on the things they most wanted to inherit. The father thought it was a bad idea, and refused, but Niles had great fun sticking labels everywhere.
Looking around the internet, I find a lot of people fall asleep during Blade Runner. I was no exception. When I woke I was very confused… I thought it was morning, and wondered if Mum had got up yet. I couldn’t remember seeing her today at all, or anything else that might have happened. Slowly it came back to me that she had indeed got up, and had done things like set the robohoover to work.
OUT OF THE LOOP
I’m disoriented these days. It’s intensified because small plans are mooted, then suddenly change and I’m not informed, and I find myself working towards something that’s not going to happen, or isn’t going to happen the way I think, which changes everything…. It’s funny how people leave you out of the loop, then look at you as though you’re the bat with crazy ideas.
A SIMPLE MISUNDERSTANDING INVOLVING COFFEE
Mum’s just got up from her nap and is drinking caffeine-free instant coffee. She hasn’t drunk instant for years, so that took me by surprise. I didn’t even realize it was caffeine-free… I just thought it was good thinking on her part to buy a replacement when I was about to run out. I ran out today… so (feeling somewhat cheated) I said “we need more.”
I now have a silver tin, while Mum has the gold. Why does ‘caff free’ get to be gold??
*SPOILER* — ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (A.I.)
Part-way through watching the Artificial Intelligence AI DVD on Mum’s TV while she was napping, which I’m not encouraged to do, I got tired minutes before she reappeared. I turned it off and left the TV on, so all she saw was snooker, which she’s still watching.
I love the teddy in AI… that’s why I bought it. The part of the story that’s painful is how the robo-boy has been imprinted on one human (his ‘mother’) and that’s an irreversible process, even though he’s likely to live a lot longer. If returned to Cybertronics after imprinting, they would have to destroy him. Rather than do that, they abandoned him in a wood with Teddy, and told him for his own safety not to go to Cybertronics or any large group of people.
But was that kind?
At the end of the film, it was easier for the boy to lose her forever while knowing he was loved, than to lose her heart and her mind… even knowing she was still alive somewhere. I didn’t understand that when I saw it before, but think now that I do.
Part of the problem with people now is that they expect perfection. All you need to do is check out one of those B&B TV reality shows… they knock marks off if there’s no TV or they have to share a bathroom, and they complain about dustbin men at 6 a.m.
Then there’s the perennial “there was a small spider in the corner.”
It makes you wonder.
EXPRESSING MYSELF… OR NOT!
I need to be consistent in myself, and that means doing what comes naturally to me. Saying what seems right to me. I’m confused enough without there being added confusion… an alien dynamic.
I run into fears I might overdo emails. After all, people are busy. Or they do all their communicating on diddly little iPod Shuffles. So I delay my responses, cut down a lot, and do so much self-editing that the authentic me isn’t coming though.
BRIEF FLASH OF ENLIGHTENMENT
From my horoscope for April 25:
“Nearly everyone seems on edge today…. Unfortunately, you could inadvertently kick a hornet’s nest if you are careless with your words. Author Pearl Cleage wrote, “Discomfort is always a necessary part of the process of enlightenment.””
Overnight I had a Eureka moment that I’ve since forgotten. I don’t know if it was real or dreamed…
I hoovered downstairs (and the stairs themselves) and polished the tables, and felt tired the whole time, as though doing it was little short of a nightmare! I hope that book about the art of Japanese tidying is right when it says that when you finally get your possessions down to a more manageable level and tidy them away into their designated spaces, keeping the whole house clean will be easier and more fun.
“Those items that bring you the most joy, such as your divorce certificate, should be kept in your power spot. Every house will have its own power spot. To find yours, close your eyes and joyously chant: “Where’s my power spot?” If the answer does not come to you then you aren’t chanting joyously enough.”
A little while ago my iMac failed… or rather, one small component in it failed, which means the whole 27″ 30.5 lb weight of it (and some of the software on it) is scrap. I used to paint in that corner; create and maintain databases, organize my photo collection, back up my iPad, listen to music…
I haven’t been there since the iMac failed, and have felt confused and disgruntled ever since. I got a new computer but haven’t turned it on. I don’t know if it will run the software I’m used to running, and the thought of installing it all over again makes me not want to go through the process at all. However, without that resource, I don’t feel ‘me’ any more.
It’s time I addressed that, and brought my ‘power spot’ back into play. Today.
HELPING THE GRASS GROW
The hill out the back gets manure put on it annually. You go out into the garden and it’s suddenly reeking. I have thought a few times the cats were overdoing it…
BOOKS AND HAPPINESS
A while ago when I suggested buying Sharpe books on Kindle for her birthday, Mum said no, she can’t concentrate enough on reading.
More recently, I took a pile of books downstairs to go to charity, and some time later thought “that’s funny, the pile looks smaller!” I peeked in Mum’s room, and she’d taken a book (The Vital Spark) and put it in her book rack.
That made me happy. 🙂
She’s also finished a slim library book by Ann Cleeves and bought herself a Kindle book.
It all makes me happy and I feel calmer. Also, today it was sunny. Rather cold, but the sun was gold on the trees and blossoms… just lovely.
I’ll miss it here.
There’s a touch of blogger’s block going on here.
A couple of days ago a friend happened to mention it’s a good trick to write for yourself only, not for any particular audience, and to avoid editing as you write.
Today I’ll just write and see what happens.
Yesterday my sister replaced the broken old cat flap. When I checked it out, My boy cat (blog name Samson) sat bolt upright, ears straight up, staring brightly at me, one eye slowly closing in a quizzical wink. It looked like he was saying, “Well? What do you think?”
You would think he had bought and fitted it himself. And I was reminded of someone. Every so often I’ll look at him and be bothered by the feeling he’s like a character on TV, but I can never remember who. Eventually it hits me… it’s Toothless. Never anybody else. Just Toothless.
I don’t have Toothless in mind already and say “Toothless is like Samson”… I don’t do that. I can never remember who I’m being reminded of, but the resemblance… something in the expression and posture… is strong.
Although mostly silent, Samson seems to be communicating with every fibre of his being. He’ll sit and stare intently at you, and the minute you turn and catch his eye, he leans forward and his face is absolutely radiant.
Nothing cheers you up quicker. 🙂
My mother is unwell; eating very little these days. For supper last night she had three breaded scampi and an onion ring. Today she managed a poached egg on toast. When I brought a plate of food the other night, she courageously drew herself up to meet it. I said she looked like a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, about to eat something with sixteen legs.
Christmas will be a puzzle this year, as I’ve not been getting out to shop. I feel there’s not much time left online either. Still… As the citizens of Whoville found out in The Grinch, Christmas is Christmas all on its own. We still have our trappings… a six-foot silver tree, lights and decorations. The cats with their 3D superstar impressions. Sisterly visits. There will be turkey, roast potatoes and bread sauce on the day.
I’ve been avoiding Facebook for most of the year, but decided there would be no harm in checking in with people over Christmas. Was surprised to find some really lovely comments about one of my cats… two pages of them! Perhaps my friend is right when she said you can make Facebook work for you. Check your privacy settings. Choose who you want to interact with, and write about those things that are tongue-in-cheek and fun. Don’t get all serious, angry or political. If you’re not enjoying somebody’s statuses, quietly unfollow them.
Well, perhaps. It still feels to me like we’re shark-bait.
It’s nice to get away from the internet from time to time. Talking of which, I have a lot of DVDs and am in the mood to watch some. I don’t often get the chance to, but when I can, there are old favourites I have in mind.
How to Train Your Dragon
Horton Hears a Who
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Young Montalbano
Master and Commander
Those will be a good start.
*This was just an attempt to kick-start my failing blogging habit. Normal service will be resumed shortly.*
In Scotland yesterday it was unusually hot. The wind here is generally cool or cold on your skin, but for once it was like a tropical bath. Our bus stopped for a small group of people who took their time buying tickets. The sun burning through the windows became intense. Heatstroke started to seem like a real possibility, and when we finally got moving again, fresh air circulated through the bus and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t think we could take many such hold-ups.
When we got to town, there were queues in shops where there are normally few people; tourists and locals ‘enjoying’ a day out. It’s odd when you think about it — shopping is the least fun thing to do when you’d rather sit in the shade with an ice lolly.
According to weather reports we were heading for thunderstorms, so it wasn’t surprising when the sky started lighting up that night. At 2 a.m. when everyone was in bed, the menace was profound… ancient forces were stalking the land. Like mice, we lay quiet in our lonely burrows, hoping to escape the attention of something much bigger than us.
Lamp switched off; curtains closed; all I could see was the repeated repulsing of outer darkness. A picture formed in my mind of houses huddled across the curve of the earth. Nothing dared go abroad while the storm stepped overhead with stately imperiousness. It was all very old and powerful, and I could imagine dinosaurs in the streets and in open fields, hoary heads swinging, on the hunt for prey.
In the midst of all this I started worrying about the sunflower.
It normally sits in the kitchen window but was crawling with aphids. I didn’t want the little horrors to spread to my chillis, so put the sunflower out for the night. Standing on the doorstep, I belatedly remembered the snails, and put the pot on the top shelf of a tall garden what-not which was standing beside the back door. Above my head, the sunflower stabbed the night with its loathsome burden of greenfly.
Now, in my darkened room, I had visions of this slender green rod attracting lightning. The aphids would burn up, which would be great… but, less happily, so would the sunflower. I could get up and move it to ground level, but told myself not to be so stupid. After all, the house is taller than the sunflower… if there’s any stray lightning around, it’s more likely to hit the roof.
Being all too aware of aforementioned ancient forces, you have no wish to stir out of bed. I didn’t want to be found on the doorstep the next morning as a small pile of ash covered in slime trails, so the sunflower would have to take its chances.
Lying in bed, not sleeping, you still worry.
The cats were indoors and in their beds, probably as glad about that as I was. Was everything unplugged? I reassured myself I was unlikely to be zapped and there was nothing I could do to make it less likely, while probably a lot I could do to make it more likely… then was disturbed by a memory. Something happened on a night like this years ago.
That other night, I lay awake with frequent flashes of lightning punctuating the darkness. The rain came down so hard it bounced off the tarmac. Suddenly there was a crash, causing me to leap up and run around to see if anything had blown up. It wasn’t till next day I found the aerial booster had stopped working, though the TV itself was fine! Ha.
I said there was a crash that night, but it’s not that simple. I’m profoundly deaf. I only know I started to my feet all of a sudden, and it wasn’t out of panic… it was because some internal alert had gone off abruptly, as yours would if there was a loud bang in your house.
Fortunately last night was uneventful. It rained, the sunflower fell off its perch and the aphids disappeared. There was thunder I couldn’t hear, which lacks all drama — yet I knew something big had passed.
Apparently we should write lists to get through our gloomy spells.
Hoping to achieve:
(1) Better artwork and photography.
(2) Avoiding living forever and turning into a sort of desiccated bat. (I should put at least one that’s achievable).
(3) More friends, casual or otherwise.
(4) Better writing and blogging.
(5) In time, a greater measure of peace. 🙂
(1) Get on with painting… will start again at the beginning as something wasn’t right.
(2) Rouse up new music for my collection. Will try anything except Pooh’s Top 40 and Duran Duran.
(3) Read more books… loads I bought for the Kindle and never got round to!
(1) Write a book? So many people are writing books, though. If I don’t, I’ll be the only person who hasn’t written one, which will be doing everyone a favour.
Things I’ve survived in life already:
(2) Irate hamsters, especially the Russian dwarf variety.
(3) Finding out I’m only average (that’s both depressing and a relief)
(4) Embarrassment (one of the worst indignities life throws at you).
What I love in life and what makes me happy:
(1) Family, friends (including iPad) and cats.
(2) Art and music.
(3) Comforting routine.
(4) Things beginning with C… comments, cadeaux, comedy, computers, cameras, chocolate, coffee, cream, cheese, coconuts, curry, chilli, cinnamon, cashew nuts, clematises, cherry blossom, colours, colouring books, creativity, comfortable slippers and conversation.
(5) Writing, diaries, blogging and haikus.
(6) Reading and books.
(7) Ideas and simple philosophies.
(8) Teddy bears and denim shirts (not necessarily together).
(9) Eggs, mushrooms, sausages and bacon at breakfast. (Not so keen at night).
(10) Roads of Rome, Northern Tale, Trolls vs Vikings and other iPad games.
What’s good about me:
(1) Curiosity and lots of casual research.
(2) Always improving writing skills and artwork.
(3) Trying to be fair even when people make me cross.
(4) Slowly cultivating a little healthy scepticism and caution!
What I’ve learned about myself from all of the above:
(1) There do seem to be a lot of Cs in my lists.
(2) I have no long-term goal!! Is that bad?
(3) No cake listed, but I don’t love it anyway. Especially not fruit cake.
(4) The things I love come together to make an acrostic. Is that to be my new goal in life? I’ve no wish to enter slanging matches with other Wikipedia editors, so can’t say I’m enthused.
(5) Simple living for me, please.
My worst quality could be one I’m not aware of. Perhaps what I see as caution and an eye for a bargain would be seen by another as typical Scots parsimony. A wish for clarification and detail might be written off by the unsympathetic as pettifoggery. But from the list of failings that I own to, which would be the worst?
This list could go on quite some way, but is already sounding like the seven dwarves.
I was labelled ‘pedantic’ at the age of 19 by family and friends. Was surprised and indignant, but over time began to realize what they meant. When I wrote letters, I answered every single thing that was said, dissecting each comment and rambling away, only to get back on track with the next nano-topic. It was only polite, all right? It showed I was paying attention.
I hadn’t shaken the habit by the time I was working — one colleague told another I tended to fly off at a tangent. The same urge to dissect everything and really get my money’s worth out of it was at play. Sometimes you’re not sure if a relayed comment is a compliment or not…
Anyway, you keep combing over little clues like this in your mind, spinning out a long list of weaknesses to be worked on. Pedantry might be undesirable, but I don’t think it’s the worst. It seemed to amuse more than annoy, and probably keeps my nose to this whole self-improvement track, though that’s not as New Age as it may sound.
Since that revelation back in time, maybe I’ve swung the other way and been too casual with emails and letters, ignoring a lot of things I should have responded to. Sometimes you just don’t seem able to get it right. The worst of it is, I can look back and see where I went wrong. I shouldn’t have talked so much about this; should have said more about that. I microanalyze everything I’ve written, cringing and thinking “no, that was terrible!” One friend recently reassured me that I didn’t come across as sounding the way I thought I sounded even though I didn’t mean that anyway. Maybe she knows me too well! Either that or she knows me better than I know myself, and would be able to tell you without hesitation what my greatest failing is. I would be very surprised and completely indignant… then bound to acknowledge the truth of it!
If I microanalyze everything I say or do, you can be sure I do it with other people. I used to believe implicitly that if you said it was so, it was so. Not so much now. “Your letters are so light and chatty,” could mean “you don’t half go on… I’m not able to keep up.”
And what about ‘keep in touch’? Never used to trouble me — schoolchildren commonly wrote it to each other and I thought it meant exactly what it said. But now my crazed and self-loathing brain sees: “I don’t mean to talk very much to you — just once every Christmas, maybe?”
Actually, that’s probably what it does mean.
I seem to have singled this out as my greatest failing… pedantry? I’ve talked so much about it here, but perhaps I’m just reluctant to get to the nitty gritty. Which leads me to…
Procrastination. This is a failing I’m annoyed by so much that I fight it by being earlier with things. This year I got the Christmas tree up in November! I feel better for it. The better and happier you feel with yourself, the more you think “that wasn’t bad at all!” and the more likely you are to be early with the same thing next time. Because there’s nothing I hate more than something weighing me down increasingly… the one thing I haven’t yet done that must be done.
If you get a Christmas card from me these days, you’re one of the lucky few. But if you’re thinking “she dropped me from her Christmas card list!”… oh no, I didn’t. I dropped the whole list by accident when busy a-procrastinating, back in the days when I was a greater procrastinator than I am now. I never took it up again, as I found I liked being free of that particular albatross.
I still shilly-shally sometimes. For instance, there’s the picture I never finished. Well, more like 500 pictures I never finished.
The back-up drive I haven’t bought, though my main one failed several weeks ago (I guess this might eventually solve the problem of the unfinished pictures).
The emails and letters I never wrote.
The squeaky wheels I haven’t greased. (Sorry, trolley!)
The coffee percolator that still has old coffee grains in it. (That should give a good rich, ripe, earthy flavour to the next brew). Yes, the pink one.
The failed spotlight bulb still not replaced, after years of irritably wishing the spotlight would work.
The ‘solar lights’ owl I didn’t furnish with batteries (and it got smashed in the next gale anyway).
Dental check-up. Had it to here with dentishts after being elevated to the status of a vampire at my last session, blood streaming down my chin. “What did your last dentist think she was doing?? Why so long to get this gaping hole closed?” Gosh, I don’t know.
All things considered, looking at it point by point, it seems procrastination is a failing I’ve not yet vanquished. In my vain pursuit of personal perfection, though, I’m sure I’ll get to it. Maybe tomorrow?
The place is littered with bits of paper, old envelopes folded over, small notepads, even postit notes… these are what we write to each other on.
Today is Halloween. Without even thinking, I was wearing a loose black skirt decorated with beads. Kind of witchy. Mum came home from somewhere, and made me turn round. She plucked a yellow postit note off my skirt — it said, ‘The eve of all hallows.’
Thanks for the memo….
Sorry, I was away from my blog for a while. We went for a holiday in York, and that was the week it flooded! Miraculously, our main road out of town was cleared hours before our departure, but we passed a couple of drowned fields on the way. The tops of the hedgerows barely cleared the water.
Now there are floods where we are, including the little burn out the back. It overflowed across the path, but has receded now, touch wood. I’m beginning to feel chased around by these muddy rushing rivers…
Hope to get myself sorted out soon, then I’ll get back to responding to blog comments.