Chaos – Require Candlelight

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I purloined this pic from Facebook.  I believe its owner is sufficiently de-identified.  Today has been a perfect summers day – about 25 degrees, a slight breeze.  Life has been chaotic.  I think coming close to something like this view would give a little candlelight.  Balance.

24 hours and counting…

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I need to get something done. I need to end the distraction. A quick and cheeky refresh of my Facebook newsfeed is enough to interrupt the creative flow. A day awash with Facebook updates is not life, but simply existence punctuated with snippets of the lives of others. I need to finish a chapter. I need to get a painting to a stage where a coat of varnish and a frame are the last pieces of the puzzle.

In order to fling this monkey from my back I’ve installed a great app for Mac called Self Control. It’s just a kick start – the app only lasts for 24 hours. Like anything worth having, you do need to actually put in some effort yourself (I know, an what an utterly quaint concept). I’m sure there is some kind of muscle memory laid down where, when I am at the keyboard, periodically my fingers wander to the track pad and involuntarily click on the Safari icon, meander over to the Facebook tab and then quickly, before the brain is even engaged, hits refresh.This social media frenzy has conjured up a whole other class of friendship – lolling somewhere between acquaintance and comrade – and they are a bloody distracting bunch! Disembodied communications devoid of context amplifies the gaps between us. Intensifies that I haven’t seen her for so long. Shows that I never really knew him. For the last 24 hours I’ve not been able to tell my friends that I love honey on toast with a cup of hot tea! Oh – the humanity!

I’ve had to sit with my thoughts on life and everything in it. After so many years of indiscriminately spewing out all that comes to mind – be it of interest or no – The critical questioner has burst forth! The amazing filter-wunderkind! My Uber Mental Negotiator. Welcome back, Mademoiselle, welcome back.

When I finally did a cost/benefit analysis for Facebook it just didn’t stack up – for what it cost me in time wasn’t even close to the cost of the energy of metal processing and interruption to creative flow. I am a procrastinator from way back – telephone calls, vacuuming, cleaning, washing, sorting receipts – you name it, I’ve tried it. So add Facebook to that mix and I’ve got no hope. Eventually I nutted it down to this – if, previous to Facebook, I wouldn’t have taken out an ad in the Herald Sun to announce it, chances are it doesn’t need to be shared.

The Jolly Roger icon of the Self Control app sitting in my Macbook dock is displaying a little red timer – two hours and 44 minutes until I’ve been off Facebook for 24 hours – and it will go right back on when that time is up. Already, I feel lighter.

Chaos, Hoarders and a mountain of junk

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In the wake of the spontaneous and unpredicted carpet purchase, and the desire to have it done right away, I failed to consider the breadth and depth of the repercussions.  It turns out that faster is not necessarily better (what a surprise!). So today the carpet layers are here with their strange knee-bangy things, and smelly glue and miles of carpet and underlay.

When the burly carpet installer man arrived this morning, he sported a spritely smile and flitted between the three bedrooms.  His bulk moved so lightly from room to room he was almost an apparition.  “All ready for us then?”

“hmmmm. Yes.  Fun.  No, it’s not.” I mumbled something along those lines.

“Worse than moving house, most people say,” the physical contradiction in front of me replied.  The man was built like a brick shit house, yet, was as light as a feather.  Very strange.

Again, I digress.

The thing is, it is worse than moving house.  Instead of moving all your crap out into a truck, you have to deposit it in spare space around the house.  What to do when ‘spare space’ is at a premium?

Early this morning I walked into the main bathroom to retrieve my son’s toothbrush – and it hit me – hoarders.  Yes, Hoarders.  The TV show, more specifically.  I had always wondered how they could live with the mountains of rubbish around them.  How is it that they could function?

Well, standing in my bathroom this morning it came to me.  They were safe.  They were secure in their cocoons of furniture and papers, cushions and discarded cat litter trays (okay, maybe the litter trays are a step too far – that I cannot understand.)  I stood in the bathroom, the tub piled high with the contents of the bedroom wardrobes – outdoor furniture cushions, spare bedding and old doonas kept for ‘emergencies’ (what the hell constitutes a doona emergency?)  Bedclothes from all 3 beds, lamps, blankets and towels spilled down the sides of the mountain inside the tub.  Rails from the spare bed, the dismantled bed from Number 1 son’s room and assorted other paraphernalia and whatsits were deposited around the compact room.  I stood among this higgledy-piggeldy jumble of assorted bits of our lives, and I felt safe.  I felt insulated.  I felt calm.

I felt calm, but I also knew it was temporary, and that it was not how I would like to live my life.  I would rather ask my husband or son for a hug, or climb into bed under the heavy winter covers if I needed a little respite, a little calm and safety.  We all need a little calm, and a little assured safety now and then.  Being strong all the time is exhausting.

So next time you see Hoarders, don’t judge.  If you feel like you just can’t understand it, gather some supplies, like all your outdoor furniture cushions, every doona in the house (duvet if you are from the UK, quilt if US, etc), some scatter pillows and a few hard items like a chest of drawers or a bedside table.  Make yourself a little bunker, a place to shelter you from the world.  And see if you don’t feel just a little bit better.

Carpet, crazy and candlelight

It is that time of year – the chaos part.  I am craving some candlelight to balance our lives.  For now the crazy fairy lights (which I love at any time of the year *blush*) and Christmas decorations aplenty will have to do. As a substitute for some genteel candlelight, the razzle dazzle of Christmas doesn’t do to badly.

Don’t ask me why, but I’ve chosen this crazy and horrendously busy time of year to replace the carpets in the bedrooms.

When we bought this place two and a half years ago, we agreed that the carpet needed to be changed, a hell of a lot of painting needed to go down, and the kitchen needed to be ejected entirely.  Then life kicked me in the guts and stuck me in hospital gowns and forced me to sleep on plastic covered mattresses and plasticky, crunchy pillows for the best part of two years.  I’m starting to recover and well, here comes the carpet.

The thing is, it’s not the carpet itself.  It’s that the long overdue changes that will make this MY home are beginning.  As it stands, this house still really belongs to it’s previous owners, if not in name, it certainly still belongs to them in style.

A little inventory of the current carpet landscape:

Bedroom One – girl’s bedroom, a bright pink carpet (with a simply LOVELY teddy bear wallpaper boarder halfway up the walls).  The pink has evolved to the colour I imagine puce to be.  A plush pile with dirt tinted tips.  Nice.

Bedrooms Two and Three -Ice blue plush, I am certain not one of these rooms has ever seen a steam cleaner in the 20 or so years since the carpet was laid.  So, it is not ice blue – it is the colour of a muddy puddle, which blends in beautifully with the pink and grey floral, half-length window seat curtains and matching pelmet.  As I said – nice.

So while in town on other errands, I inadvertently toddle towards the flooring shop, just to get an idea of how much it might cost to replace the abovementioned travesty I call our carpet, never intending to actually order anything, just to anchor my dream of finally getting rid of that manky carpet somewhere closer to the ground I stand on – rather than floating in the stratosphere alongside the dream of resisting chocolate, and brushing up against the idea of inventing a never ending vanilla slice.

I digress.  Back to the flooring shop incident.

It went something like this:

I entered the carpet shop.

I relayed the dimensions of aforementioned rooms to the enormous wall of a man who runs the shop.

I requested a price for, let’s say, that carpet.

I point to an inoffensive dark beige sample.

The purveyor of quality floors taps on his calculator – tap, tap, tap.

He gives me a number.

My mouth opens and words “when can you come and lay the carpet?” unbidden, tumble forth.

We sorted out the particulars – addresses, days and such.

Then somewhat astounded and a touch excited, I left the shop.

It is just a small thing – a small step for man – to coin a phrase.  I intend for this to be the beginning of a new chapter.  For after a spinal injury, I guess any kind of step is a blessing.

On leaving the shop, some other kind of feeling came over me.  One that, as it turns out, is a good substitute for candlelight.

Just a moment alone

On the weekends, I sometimes find myself craving a moment alone.  Amid the enclosing chaos and the calling of the candlelight, I sometimes feel the need to hide away.  But – I have a 10 year old son and a husband.  Sometimes it’s hard to get a moment alone.

Yesterday I bought some new books on drawing flowers and people.  I wanted to sit, for half an hour or so, with a cup of cocoa and my new books, and my old pencils, in the fading daylight and sketch.  The minute my butt his the couch, in comes my darling son to use the computer. I heard myself saying, ‘You know what?  I’d really just like to have some time to myself.’  I was stunned.  Stunned.  Mothers aren’t meant to need time to themselves, are they?  Aren’t they meant to be available for all things, at all times?

‘Cool,’ came the eloquent reply.  And off he we to play with his Pokemon cards or Lego.  Or watch TV.  When the light had completely gone and I could no longer read the diagrams on the page I went to find him.  He’d tucked himself up in my bed, and was watching a Harry potter DVD (his father was watching the soccer in the living room).  I got under the covers and watched with him for half an hour until it was his bedtime.  He was happy.  I was happy.

Teaching your children that you have needs outside of their own is important.  It teaches them not only patience, but consideration of others.  As I’m typing this my son is calling out for me to go and see something he’s made.  I said ‘I’ll be there in a minute!’.  I think I should’ve just recorded that on tape when he was born.

Comfort and Loneliness in the face of Chaos and Candlelight

 

I’ve been so full of chaos and candlelight these last few days – I think most folks call it not being able to get out of your own way.  Intense.

I recently read an article on http://www.positivelypositive.com about ‘moderators and abstainers’.  Well, I think I’m an abstainer.  I used to smoke a pack of Marlboro Reds a day – gave up cold turkey around eight years ago.  I’ll occasionally stand next to a smoker and breathe deeply – but haven’t touched tobacco since.  I have an issue with chocolate – it seems I’m unable to moderate that either – so I’ve stopped eating it.  That’s really interesting and all, I hear you say, but what’s your point?

Point is this – sometimes life is overwhelming.  When life overwhelms me, I cope by abstaining.  I cease to feel or engage with my loved ones.  Not only do I retreat from my external life, I retreat from my internal life as well.  For so long I felt guilty about this.  Felt I should be stronger.  Felt I shouldn’t be such a ‘wuss’ (how the hell do you spell that?).

Then I remember everyone copes in their own way. Some people drink, some people exercise, some hit out at those they love, some seek love and comfort in a stranger, in food, in anonymity, shopping, sleeping, substances.  In the past I’ve sought comfort in almost all of the above.  Yesterday I knew I was seeking comfort.  I broke my chocolate abstinence. I ate with restless abandon.  Like a pre-menstrual tiger I prowled the house looking for comfort.  I knew what I was doing.  I was aware that I was seeking a harbour – a place I could be safe.

Since my injury I’ve spent the bulk of my time at home, alone.  Fortuitously, this is a state of being that I find pleasing.  I am not lonely, I am alone and there is a real difference.  But yesterday I found myself in the uncomfortable and foreign place of loneliness.  For a confirmed introvert this is an unsettling and strange state of affairs.  After three dark chocolate pralines I rang my husband: voicemail.  After 3 pralines and an LCM and a mini Snickers bar I rang my mother out desperation: no answer. After 3 pralines, an LCM, a mini snickers bar and a shot of grappe I sat down and interrogated myself.  What the hell are you looking for?

Kinship.  An understanding.  A knowledge that if I was a tree in a forest and I fell, someone would hear me.

I was raised to be self sufficient.  To not need others. To be proud of your independence.  And I am.  But there is so much comfort to be found in family and friends.  And no shame in admitting and showing that you find them comforting, and that you also take joy in offering them comfort.

So much literature has been coming my way recently about Gratitude.  I use a capital ‘gee’ as I think it deserves it just as much as any boring proper noun, or more so, than things like ‘Apple’ or ‘Commonwealth Bank of Australia’ (bastards).

I sat, and thought on all that I am grateful for.  Piece by piece, thanks by thanks, my voracious appetite melted to sadness, and my sadness moderated into silence.  And then I started cooking dinner, grateful for our home-grown vegetables, for the clean water and for the beautiful saucepans I splurged on in the post-Christmas sales last year.

When all seems hopeless, cook a meal and kiss your children.  If you don’t have children, kiss your cat and thank her for being there.  If you don’t have children or a cat, speak to the sky and thank it for being blue or grey or brilliant orange – or just for not falling in today.

Melbourne Cup Day and Candlelight

Today I renewed my subscription to New Scientist in the hope that it will bring some inspiration and connection to the goings on in the outside world.

The candlelight has touched my life over the last few months.  Warm, sparkly, kind and gentle.  Not intrusive, but quiet and calm.

So much darkness came before, for almost two years I lived in darkness (literally and figuratively.) Insomnia kept me in darkness throughout the night, and drawn curtains during the day – desperately clawing at the diffused light for a scrap of sleep.  But now to the candlelight.

Now that the light is part of my life – what will I do?  I read blogs for inspiration, try to see what people in a similar situation do with their time, from where their fulfillment originates?  How satisfaction in a new life is manifested?  Here is the rub – it isn’t a new life.  It is the same one, transformed, turned upside down and shaken ’till so many parts simply fell out – yes, it is the same life.

It has been suggested (by someone who does not know me very well) that my satisfaction should be derived from my role as a wife and mother.  I’ve already watched that concept destroy scores of women thrust into such a life.  Some are cut out for it, and a slight wedge of envy creeps in when I think of them.  Sadly, the cut of my jib does not lend itself to such a life.

So what is it that will be just for me?

It was riding.  Riding cleared my mind, allowed me to focus wholly on something ‘outside’ the consequential. That has had to stop.

It was my work.  That has had to stop.  Work was all about someone other than me.  Delivering positive change in my community.  Inspiring different points of view – to look beyond the obvious. To innovate and create opportunity.

I can’t allow it to be renovating – that sits too comfortably alongside the wife/mother suggestion.  When I think of home renovation as a mode of fulfillment I always think of the movie The War of the Roses (which is almost impossible to find on DVD).  When I’ve finished renovating/decorating – what then do I have? Besides, finances/physicality will not allow.

So what will it be?

It won’t be travelling.  With so much of my financial situation up in the air, it simply isn’t practical on a financial level, without a consideration of the physical/logistical conundrums.

What will it be?

I think at the moment it is Words With Friends.

What will it be?  The question resurfaces again and again. (I like the word ‘resurface’ – it can be the refurbishment of a facade, it can be a kind of reawakening, a rebirth.  A coming up from the depths.  Yes, I will allow and encourage the question to resurface again and again in the hopes that eventually, I will resurface.)

While the candlelight is gentle and forgiving, and makes even the dullest diamonds sparkle, my chaos is lacking.  Today is Melbourne Cup Day.  The race that stops a nation.  Those horses run their hearts out – not because they have to, or particularly want to – they do it because their riders ask it of them. Pushing through the pain barrier, they stride on with everything within their powerful and graceful bodies.  I’m seeking just a drop of that energy and commitment in my chaos.  Just to balance the wonderful candlelight that has brought me closer to the surface.

Tally Ho!