Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Seasoned, Affected and Disorderly

http://villasukka.deviantart.com/art/Autumn-wind-126947370
I woke up this morning to the sound of a strong late-autumn wind rifling through the trees in my back garden, and rattling against my window. My first thought was 'That'll take down the last of the remaining leaves then,' and usually I would have felt sad, but not this year.

I diagnosed myself with SAD a few years ago. Seasonal Affect Disorder (or in other words, The Winter Blues) is a form of depression that only kicks in during the winter months. People with SAD tend to be absolutely fine during the warmer months of the year, and depressed during the colder months. It's thought to be related to the lack of light in winter.

The trouble is, as soon as I "realised" this was what it was, I began dreading winter. If I had SAD, it would mean I was always miserable during the winter months, and there was very little I could do about it. So I'd get to September, when the air felt cooler and the leaves started changing colour... and I'd have in my head this chaotic combination of complete denial of the end of summer, wearing flip flops until my toes froze; and a deep throbbing panic that once summer was over, my happiness would end too.

Autumn became nothing more that a slippery slope to winter. Winter became a dark hole.

So how is it that this year, when Autumn kicked in and the leaves started turning from green to orange...I felt nothing but excitement and pleasure from the change?

There is only one thing I can put it down to, and that is the incomprehensible magic of a shift of focus from negative to positive. The sad thing is, I can't really explain how it happened! If I could, I feel like I could make it all better, fix everyone who feels sad themselves! I would have my hands on the key to happiness! But unfortunately it doesn't work that way. It's been a long, meandering process, and a completely personal one, and this is how it must be for everyone who goes through it.

Still, if there's one thing I can say it's this: if you are sad you must embrace change. You must want it: REALLY want it deep down inside you. I know this because it is the only thing that worked for me. I got sad. I got more sad. I fell into a lake of sad and I couldn't find the shore. Then, just as I thought there was no way out of it and I would sink forever, I hit the bottom of the lake. It sounds a little crazy, but the bottom is a good place because yes, it may feel like the absolute worst you could feel, but at least you have something to push against, if you get my meaning.

But this is the conclusion I came to... if you can call it a conclusion... this morning as I was listening to the wind stealing the last little symbols of summer from the spidery branches of the winter-bare trees: if you can find a way to embrace change, then you can find a way to enjoy it. When I was sad, I just wanted to desperately cling on to anything that made me feel happy, because I was so afraid of the emptiness around it. So I clung onto summer and dreaded the moment when it changed. But now that I feel happy, now that I am enjoying the changes in my life and looking forward to the unknown good times that are yet to come; autumn and winter are suddenly just new steps on the journey.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Does Time Heal?

After love ends, we say lots of things to make it feel better.

We talk about time and how it heals. We say we will, we are getting over it.

I was contemplating this morning, as I was waking up, what you can say to someone when they are struggling to forget a love that's not in their lives any more. There must be a way (without lying) to numb the pain, to help them to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel rather than how long the tunnel is...

I had a funny little vision of my last partner, standing at the end of a long corridor, looking at me. He was so far away, he looked very small. We waved at each other and smiled, and then he turned and walked through a door and was gone.

I still feel sometimes that I could follow him through the door. There, on the other side, would be our relationship, just as I want it to be: all that parts I miss, all still there like nothing had happenned. I could walk through and I'd be back in it again.

But I don't do it.

Because that door opens up to a dream of the relationship, not the reality of it. So instead I have to watch him walk through it alone, and then I have to turn away and come back to my own life.

It's not so hard to do. My real life is more important, fun, exciting... real than my daydreams.

And that's how it is, to begin with. Love is lost, and life continues no matter what is going on inside your head. You just have to get on with it. But later on, what if you're still being haunted by the ghosts... what if it feels like you will never find a way to escape them? What can you do then to make it feel better?

For my part, this is what I think: right now, at this moment in time (this is not to say that somewhere down the line I won't change my point of view entirely- none of my opinions are fixed, I am always open to debate and ready to be proven wrong!)...

Time doesn't heal, time just covers everything with dust. I don't think that once you've truly loved someone, it will ever just stop. I have become very aware that good things in your past are not made bad by bad things. In other words- if you have very good, very beautiful, very happy memories of life with a person, nothing can ever take those memories away. Even if, on other occasions, they treated you like absolute shit. Even if the rest of the time you were miserable. Those bad times don't have an effect on the good times, they are two separate things. You can use the bad times as a (perfectly reasonable) justification for not trying to re-live the good times. But you can't use them to paint over or blot out the good memories.

So you just have to find the strength inside you to keep that door to the good memories closed, and wait for the dust of time to become so thick, you hardly notice what's underneath it. But don't hovver there with your foot wedged in the door, because that's just torture. Turn your back on it and go look for new things to do, new people to have fun with and be excited by. The more good memories you can find to put into your head, the deeper the old ones will be buried under the dust.

I'd be interested to hear others opinions on this one so please comment if you feel inspired!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Maurice the Self Pity Monster

Me and Maurice go back a long old way. I never really got on with him, truth be told, but he always seemed to turn up on my doorstep when I wasn't expecting him, usually bedraggled-looking and in need of a hug, and so I would let him in. It was getting rid of him that was the hard part.

http://www.richwerner.com/?p=681
Maurice isn't a real person, just to make that clear. Maurice is the Self Pity Monster. We all have a Maurice. He's the part of us who, when things don't turn out as we'd like, pushes his bottom lip out and folds his arms, tears welling in his huge puppy-dog eyes. He asks 'why ME?' and compares himself to all those people who aren't suffering right now, demanding to know why he always gets the bum deal.

He's so easy to listen to, so hard to ignore. It's his vulnerability that is so inticing. Maurice needs love and care. How can anybody say no to that?

But this is his trick, you see, and he will always want more. More love, more care, more attention... no amount is ever enough. There will always be another wound to kiss better, another insult that needs smoothing, another hurt that needs nursing. Maurice is utterly draining.

There are many forms of self pity, and this is, I believe, where it is easy to catch ourselves out. I speak entirely from personal experience here. I have spent a long time now observing my own behaviour and am perfectly content in admitting I have let Maurice take control for a hefty chunk of my life. Funnily enough, it is only now that I am happier in many ways that I can look back and see how often Maurice was there in the driving seat. It's not like I identified him and tried to get rid of him, I just changed my actions in many small ways before even realising he was there, and that allowed me to see him more clearly.

Self pity, in its most obvious form, is when we relinquish responsibility of a bad situation. As soon as it becomes someone else's fault, it is easy to feel hurt by it (no matter what it is.) We wish it wasn't us it was happening to, we feel like this sort of thing goes on all the time, we want someone to make us feel better. In this sense, self pity is an attention-seeking form of behaviour, even if we hide ourselves away when we feel it. Deep down we just want to be cared for when we feel self pity.

But it all becomes more complicated when we start to analyse our own self pity. Nobody wants to be thought of as self pitying. We all know a self pitying person is a drain. In trying to fix the problem, we may very well say "RIGHT I'm going to take responisibility for this- it's NOT someone else's fault, it is my own," but often in doing this, we are only internalising the self pity rather than nulifying it.

To use myself as an example:
http://artat.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/boy-in-bubble.html
I was a shy child. I clearly remember sitting on the school bus imagining I was invisible. There was a big bubble around me and nobody could see inside it, it was as if I wasn't even there. I would say to myself "Why am I the wierd one? What on earth is wrong with me? How come all the other kids get to have friends, how come they get to laugh and have fun while I'm sitting here invisible? I hate my life so much. Oh, why can't someone just come and change it for me?"

But then I would feel guilty for being so self pitying about the situation, and my internal monologue would change to "I hate myself so much for being like this. I should just be talking and joking like everybody else is. I'm so wierd, I'm just abnormal. Nobody is ever going to like me if I'm like this, unless I can change I am going to be miserable forever."

It felt as if I was taking control by changing my viewpoint in this way. I didn't have to feel guilty because I wasn't trying to blame anyone but myself for my own problems. But what I didn't see was that Maurice was still the one behind the feelings! If I spoke to anyone about it, I would speak with the second voice, feeling that it was OK to talk about how much I hated myself for these problems. What I didn't realise at the time is that I was still asking for the same response- the same care, the same love, the same attention. I was still using behaviour that was draining to other people... and to myself for that matter!

We really have to be careful where Maurice is concerned.

So what do we do about these issues? If we can't ask for care and attention, and we can't blame ourselves and take responsibility... what can we do?

I'd say, for one, try acceptance. Yes, I was a shy child. Yes, I did sit alone on the bus while other kids were laughing and joking. But if I'm honest with myself, it was never as big a problem as I felt it was at the time. There were days when I was too tired to care, or too happy to really notice. On those days I just sat and watched the world go by, or listened in on their conversations, thinking about what these kids were like, working them out without them even realising I was doing it.

You may not have got the job you wanted so badly. You may be a stone heavier than you'd like. You may have met the man of your dreams only to discover you're not the woman of his. You may be sitting at the roadside because your car has broken down, or be in bed with the flu on the day of that gig you'd been dying to see, or be too broke to buy that beautiful coat you just found in Urban Outfitters...

Don't even let Maurice in!
It's really sad that you didn't get the job, be sad about it and then get back on the jobhunt- other jobs are out there, maybe even a better one.
Don't hate yourself your whole life for not being the shape or size you'd like. Is anyone you care about telling you don't look perfect? Chances are, probably not.
He wants someone else. There is nothing you can do to change it. Let him go. It hurts but before long it won't any more and the quicker you accept it, the quicker it will stop.
Your car will be fixed, it will be over soon.
The band will play again.
Maybe you can ask for the coat for Christmas...

It's not easy and I know as well as anyone, sometimes Maurice is just too damn pursuasive...

But this doesn't mean isolating yourself or trying to hide the fact that you're upset and hurt by things when they go wrong. If you are genuinely upset, then your friends and family- the people who care about you- will want to help you out, they will want to get you out of whatever situation you're in. The trick, as far as I can tell, is to try to accept the situation first. Then you can think about what you would like to do about it. Your friends and family will find it infinately more easy to help you if you have identified what it really is that's upsetting you, than if you simply ask them for attention.

I read a fantastic quote today by someone called Eckhart Tolle, which I will finish with:
"Accept, then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Road Ahead

I fell in love at seventeen. THUMP. There I went, headfirst.

And suddenly it felt as if I was ready for everything: we'd move in together, we'd get married, we'd have kids eventually. I felt so adult.

It wasn't until the relationship ended four years later, it occurred to me that I'd got it wrong: love doesn't make you an adult, it's loosing love that does that.

When a relationship ends, especially a long term one, something is torn out of your life and it leaves a hole. It's bloody painful and it is only YOU who can deal with it. There is no painkiller you can take for this hurt. There is no plaster that can cover this kind of wound. And you can never really know how long it will take to heal.

But believe me: it WILL heal.

So here is a blog for anyone who needs just a little hand on their shoulder, just a few words that might help you to have belief that, however shitty it feels, you will stand happily on your own two feet again.

This is:

MY STAGE BY STAGE GUIDE TO GETTING THE FUCK OVER IT

Stage One: It Happens

So it's come to this. All those amazing times you had together; that uncanny link where you always seemed to know exactly what the other was thinking; those nights where you'd just hang out, hardly speaking but feeling so comfortable in each other's company that you didn't need words: those are all gone now. Maybe it'd been going wrong for a long time, maybe they treated you like dirt one too many times, or maybe it was sudden and unexpected. No matter what the details are of the actual break-up, there will be just one day, just one moment, when it ends for good, and you will know it in your heart.

My advice here would be: KNOW it. Even if it hurts like knives... especially if it hurts like knives, then you know it's real.

See, I believe most people are too afraid of their own emotions. We seem to think that in order to be strong people we have to overcome them, push them away and soldier on. We can't admit that we're torn apart by something because that would be weak. I say NO. There's a reason we feel torn apart by it... it's because we ARE torn apart by it. In allowing yourself to feel that way, you're accepting that it really is happenning. You're never going to get over it if you won't fully accept that it's happened. But you also have to be honest with yourself about the pain, and don't wallow in it. If you find yourself turning it inwards and hating yourself, try and remind yourself that what you're going through right now is really really REALLY tough. Give yourself a break. Have a really good cry, or an angry outburst (break some plates or something) and then pick yourself back up again.

But in my experience, I can honestly say that stage one is never as bad as you think it's going to be. I might have to exclude those situations where the break up is sudden and unexpected. (I once mentioned to a boyfriend, late at night, that he seemed unhappy in the relationship and he reacted by agreeing and breaking up with me right there and then, when we had been living together for a couple of years. that was BAD because I hadn't seen it coming... but then within a few days he'd changed his mind...) But on the whole, a relationship will end after a period of unhappiness, and it is likely that amongst the hurt and anger and grief, there will be a certain element of relief: at least you know for sure now. No more wondering, no more waiting. You may even feel a sense of confidence and purpose. You can stop running around in circles trying to make it work when it wasn't. You can start again afresh, look out for YOURSELF for once.

You will want to get your point across to your partner but be careful: emotions will run high right now, and a heartfelt conversation can easily be blown off course or out of proportion. It's frustrating when all you want is for the other person to see your point of view, but just hang on for a short while and accept that you WILL be able to do this, you just have to wait for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. Get some space between the two of you and try to concentrate on things that make you happy. If you need to vent, write a letter. You don't have to give it to them so write whatever you feel you need to say. Then by the time you DO speak to them, you will have a much clearer and calmer head. And if they keep pushing you to talk to them, just (as calmly as possible) explain that you will, but you just need a little bit of space to get your thoughts straight.

And most importantly of all: if there is a third party involved, try not to spend too much time focussing on what the two of them might be up to now you're out of the picture. Trust me, I've been there more than once and I can say with confidence that whatever they ARE up to, it's probably not what you've got in your head. Look at it this way: they were with you because they cared about you and that isn't something you can just turn off or replace with someone else; they will be missing you too and that's going to have an effect on their relationship with this new person. And if it doesn't, if they really have just cast you aside like that, then you are so much better off without them I can't even describe it- let this new person have them, let them be the one that's treated like dirt, you're lucky to be rid of it!

Stage Two: The Floaty Bit

Stage two is the odd bit where nothing seems quite real. You might get butterflies, feel excited or anxious, you might even get a weird sensation that it's not quite your own life you're living. Just don't get freaked out by it, it's totally normal. You feel like this because your life has just taken a sharp turn in a different direction and it's all a bit new, even if the territory looks familiar. You're still going through the same motions as usual: the same job, the same house, the same basic daily routine... but it suddenly seems different somehow.

You're going to find yourself thinking about the relationship, breakup, and ex-partner a LOT, probably going over your memories of them, feeling sad whenever you think of the good times you had, feeling overwhelming anger whenever you think of the crap they put you through during your relationship. I don't think it's a bad thing, as long as it's not getting in the way of you getting on with your life as wholeheartedly as you can. There's nothing you can do to stop memories re-surfacing, so don't get angry with yourself about it. On the otherhand, again, don't wallow in memories. Just accept them and then let them fade.

Stage Three: Reality Kicks In

I'm sorry about stage three. Stage three is really crappy.

It usually seem so start when the ex-partner comes back into your life for a brief moment. For me, in the past, it has taken the form of fleeting meetings: seeing them in the street, or being home when they come round to get the last of their stuff.

Seeing them again is inevitable, and it is painful. I'm sorry but there is nothing I can say to make it less painful. I have written the words 'exquisite pain' in a diary, and reading them back, it seems to describe the feeling quite precisely. This pain cuts into the most vulnerable parts of you and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Love is the only thing that can make you feel THIS bad.

But you must go through it so you can come out the other side. At least I can say that stage three doesn't last forever. It will vary for different people, and for different relationships, so it's impossible to say how long it will last. The deepest cuts are only fleeting, and tend to be brought on by memories re-surfacing. During my most painful break-up, I had moments of this 'exquisite pain' first thing in the morning, when I would wake up thinking about my ex-boyfriend. They'd fade by the time I was out of bed, and would only return if I was feeling particularly tired, or if something set me off (a memory or another trigger), and this went on for around six months. During other break ups, I have only had this feeling for a day or two, sometimes not at all.

I can offer a couple of suggestions that might help to soothe the exposed nerves, but I think the most important thing is to find your own way through it. Everyone has different ways of coping with pain. I have found that when you are feeling at your lowest, it can be hard to distract yourself from it. You probably won't feel very sociable, but spending chilled out time with just one or two close friends who understand how upset you are will help. If you need to be on your own, then be on your own, but don't sit in a dark room crying and rocking back and forth for hours on end. Don't crawl into a bottle of vodka and hide there for a week... I love to draw and make collages, so that's what I have done in the past- I have made pieces of art that illustrate my feelings. It was a great way to engage with my feelings whilst also distracting me from them. Sleeping was also good. Never say no to a good nap!

Stage Four: The Bruise

This stage really does feel like a bruise. I have even found myself wearing bruise-colours while I have been in this stage: all blues and greys and dark purples. This is the lingering dullness that comes once the sharp pain has faded.

See, you'll get used to feeling bad about the break up. I know it doesn't sound particularly encouraging, but believe me, when you've been feeling the kind of pain you felt in stage three, ANYTHING is better! And the best thing about stage four is that you know you're healing. You're going to start feeling so much better during stage four.

But you also need to be wary during this stage, because it is the time when you can be caught out by several things...

First there's the rebound relationship. These may or may not work for you, but if you do find yourself spending time with someone new when you're still recovering from your break-up, just be careful you don't end up hurting someone's feelings because it might just be your own that get caught, and speaking yet again from personal experience, it REALLY doesn't help! Be aware that you're probably missing your ex-partner, missing the company and the intimacy. It feels great to have that gap filled, but it's very easy to jump straight for the next person who is willing to fill it without looking to see if they're really the right person for the job! My best advice is to have patience and make sure you're OK in yourself rather than looking for someone to fix the problem!

You also need to be careful dealing with the ex-partner during this stage. When you start to feel better, you may well feel like you're ready to see them again, to get things straightened out between you. If you're going to do this, you really need to be 100% sure that you are not going to be tempted to fall for them again, or that they're not going to hit you with a guilt trip that will leave you feeling like a villan. This will only lead to a return to the dreaded stage three, or even worse, you might just find yourself sparking things up with them again, leading you back into a never-ending loop. Saying that, I have also found that meeting somewhere on common ground, such as a local park, to talk things through and calmly listen to each other's points of views can sort out the inevitable misunderstandings that often get left open after a break up. So as long as you know you can walk away from them with your head held high, then go for it.

Stage Five: The Feelings Fade

Aaaaaah, stage five.

This, for me, pretty much always comes five months after a break up. I think it's good to have a rough idea of how long the whole process will take, so I will say that if you're in the middle of a break up, have faith, in five months time you will feel like yourself again. Five months isn't so long at the end of the day. It may even take less that five months... how good is that?!

And now, though you will still miss your ex-partner, and still feel sad about the break up, it won't really have an effect on your life. You won't think about them as soon as you wake up. You won't feel so sad when you visit places you used to go with them. You will look forward to meeting new people and sparking up new relationships. You will understand and accept that it needed to end and that you are better off now that it is over.

When you have loved someone, they find a place somewhere in your head and they plant themselves there. I often notice how life can feel like a museum of your ex-partner after they are gone from your life. Everywhere you go, you will see, hear, smell and feel things that remind you of them. This never really goes away. I am philosophical about this. It makes me glad to know that the special things you go through with a person you love never really go away. It's like that photograph album I mentioned in a previous blog: each memory is a snapshot of a time, place and feeling, and the ones that really mean something to you can be revisted. It is the stumbling block during the early stages of a break up, but later when the edges have worn a little, it becomes a link to good memories, and a reminder that you don't just get one chance at love.

As a wise philosopher once said.
Just keep swimming.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Dream Tapestry


Do you dream?

Of course you dream, we all do, it's part of our anatomy. We don't all remember them though, not that I really feel I can comment on why that is. Everybody's different. Could be that some people wake up and in that first instant of consciousness, they are already gearing up for the day ahead, any memories of their nocturnal journeys fading into nothing before they have even been acknowledged. Or perhaps our sleep patterns differ so that some people are prone to waking straight from REM sleep while others tend to drift more slowly into consciousness (apparently we only dream during REM sleep, and unless we wake within seconds of being in that state of sleep, we actually can't remember our dreams.)

But I would say we are all affected by our dreams on some level. Even if you can barely remember the details of one or two dreams in your entire lifetime, I would put money on you remembering many times where you've woken in an unexplainably odd mood- angry and ready for a fight; sad and fragile; horny and excited... and always tinged with a slight air of confusion: wasn't I just somewhere else?

Personally, I find dreams fascinating. You can read some of my own if you're interested- just go to my dream journal at the top of the page. For me it has been a lifelong curiosity which began as a child, sharing my dreams with close schoolfriends, listening to theirs and laughing at how odd they could be. Then as I grew up and began asking more and more questions about life, people and the workings of our incredible brains, looking into dreams became, for me, another insight into it all.

There is so much to say about dreams... so much that has been said about dreams. You could start with Jung and Freud, Adler and Breton, you could look into dream symbology and mythology, you can go through dream therepy and psycoanalysis, you can learn to lucid dream and take yourself on exraordinary philosophical journeys while you sleep...

It's all good stuff.

But I'm going to ignore all of that for now.

Last night I was with an old friend of mine. I should mention before I go any further, that I wasn't really with this old friend. This is a dream.

She was about to be married to a man I didn't know. The details of this man are hazy, all I know is that he was tall and handsome. He would make a perfect husband and they were very much in love.

But there was another man there with them, and he was also in love with her, but I don't think up until that point he had known he was. They were hugging each other: a proper deep and heartfelt hug, the sort you give someone when the lurching, tingling feeling in you chest and your stomach is so strong, it's almost like a magnet pulling your insides and their insides together and you just can't get close enough.

And it made me so sad to watch: sad for my friend because I knew that although she had a strong connection to this man, she didn't love him like she loved her fiancee; and sad for him because he knew this too. He knew he had lost her. He probably hadn't even realised he had anything to loose until it was too late.

I couldn't stand there and let this sad situation continue. I stepped in and took the man from my friend. I took him in my arms and I held him while he reluctantly let a couple of tears fall onto my shoulder; and my friend left with her soon-to-be-husband. Shortly after this, I had sex with the man who was in love with my friend.

I didn't feel anything towards him particularly. I didn't want anything from him. I found him arrogant and a little slimy, but he needed distracting from his pain and we had already shared a fairly intimate moment when he cried in my arms. Sex didn't feel so distant from this, but was definately more fun.

But the problem was, neither of us were entirely there. So, when something made me giggle (I can't remember what it was now), the moment passed and next thing I knew he was pulling away from me and zipping up his trousers. I think I felt a little disappointed, and perhaps guilty, but I didn't really mind.

After this point, the dream becomes much less vivid. I remember being on a beach (a recurring dream landscape for me) with the man who was in love with my friend, but whatever we were doing, it has fallen out of my memory.

I woke up wondering why I would have dreamt this. It feels a little silly and 'airy-fairy' to say that, but stay with me on this one...

Not all dreams hold 'meanings'. You could dream a fantastic dream about a man flying off into outer-space, leaving everything he knows behind and hooking up with a beautiful alien women. It doesn't necessarily mean anything more than "You fell asleep watching Dr Who."

But sometimes, for me at least, I wake from a dream feeling so full of raw emotions that I cannot just let it go without asking why I was so affected. Once you have that question in your mind, you will inevitably look at what happened in your dream and examine its relation to your own waking life. Sometimes it can be so close to reality that you don't have to look very far. Other times the whole thing can initially seem fairly ridiculous. At this point it can be helpful to break everything down, like taking apart a lego tower. If you look at each part separately and think about what it might mean on it's own, you can then piece the dream back together again and the story can read entirely differently.

For example, I once had a very emotional dream where I had to carry a sponge through the dark to take back to my bedroom. It makes very little sense on it's own. But when you pick out the three symbols here, suddenly you're looking at a little story about soaking up and holding onto emotions (sponge), feeling lost and blind (darkness), and being in a vulnerable and sexual place (the bedroom) and then it's easier to understand why it upset you!

A friend once said to me "when you look at a dream, you should consider every character as a part of yourself." This has stuck with me ever since. It's only very recently that I have realised how important that little sentence is.

I strongly recommend that anyone interested in psycology and subpersonalities should read The Ghost In Love by Jonathan Carroll. I read it exactly at the right time in my life, when my own opinions about the subject are just beginning to form. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who does read it, so I won't say much more about it other than to explain that there are literally hundreds of people mentioned in the book. But each character is just an element of the small number of main characters, so although the book features hundreds of people, it's really only about 2 or 3.

Carroll talks about love, and how when you love a person, it may just be a part of you that loves a part of them. The subject of your affection may not even realise they have this part of themselves, let alone that you love them for it. I find this such a beautiful proposal, and I agree with it entirely.

We go through so many experiences in our lives. We act out so many parts with so many different people. We learn new ways to behave, new ways to cope with situations... but the part of us that was there the first time around never really leaves us. To me it feels like a photograph album. Every action we ever took is stored there, a snapshot in time, even if we're not aware of it. Sometimes we randomly open the album on a certain page and it can feel like we're right back there, no matter how much we have learned or been through in the meantime.

That is how I interpret subpersonalities.

So when something makes you feel anxious and you turn into the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, it is because several memories of anxious people you have been in your past all blend together and take centre stage!

When I woke this morning, wondering why I had dreamt about some imagined love-triangle, the voice of my friend "think of the characters as parts of yourself" echoed in my mind. It then merged with Jonathan Carroll's suggestion that love is a complex tapestry where parts of each person thread together, some loving, some hating. And this way, my dream suddenly made sense to me in an entirely new way.

I chose my friend to represent the part of me that sums up success in love. In reality she is already happily married with two beautiful children, despite being younger than me. She always was confident, focussed and attractive. Of course, there is much more to her life than that, but this is the part of her I have singled out on a subconscious level.

The man who had missed his chance with her was played by a TV actor. Unsurprisingly he always plays the arrogant womanisier. And again, I had chosen this person because he characterised the perpetual Cassanovas I have met in my own life. I felt little towards him because I genuinely don't have a lot of time for this kind of man thanks to my own past experiences.

And yet I took him in my arms and hugged him as he showed uncharacteristic emotion.

I see this dream as an interesting reflection: a way of looking at my own opinions of love from the outside, shown to me as if it's in a mirror. Familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Egg

By Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

God is in the Details

Let me set the scene.

Years ago I went to see a ballet with my Mum and Dad, The Nutcracker I think it was. At one point, my Dad leant over and asked me why I thought it was that every dancer on stage had learnt to keep every single part of their body in exactly the same position, down to the curve of their fingers as they held them above their heads.

I think at the time, I assumed he thought it was all just a farce: that it was pointless to put that degree of perfection into a dance and was cracking a bad joke... but then that question stuck into my mind. It dug itself in and grew and it began to occur to me that he may have consciously been planting a philosophical seed in my head. My Dad is, after all, a physisist and a thinker.

http://regnierstudionews.com/2010/11/18/my-neighbors-ginko-tree/
Around the same time, I read a book called 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveller' by a guy called Italo Calvino. Strange book, but good. For me there is one particularly memorable scene, where a character is attempting to look at his surroundings with such meticulous attention that he would see and appreciate the individual beauty of every single leaf as they fell en-mass from a tree.

Two weeks ago, a three-year confusion of a relationship drew abruptly to a close when the man in question chose to hide a new girlfriend from me, and then had her around to his flat when he had said he would be coming to mine, resulting in the inevitable akward moment when I arrived at his place to find out where he'd got to... (sounds like the perfect Adam Sandler comedy sketch doesn't it- not so much fun in real life though!)

Hours previously to this, I had stood in the chaos that was his living space. And when I say chaos, don't think I am exaggerating the scene. Well, I suppose there was a bit of clear floor space...

My eyes had quickly scanned over the piles of unwashed dishes, the mens clothing scattered over the training mats he had layed out as flooring, the old trainers, heavy-duty boots, smoking paraphernalia, graphic novels, empty bottles and food packaging... and the only thing that actually caught my attention was the one thing that didn't fit in. A tiny, pink pot of make-up. Later that day, after I found the two of them together, I wondered why I hadn't known as soon as I saw it.

Odd though, isn't it, how a little pink pot of make-up can answer a question about a group of ballet dancers. We notice the things that don't fit. No matter how small.

There will be some scientific reasoning for this somewhere. Probably to do with our ancestral relatives and the need to spot predators...But why reduce it to facts when it is such a beautiful philosophy to explore?

Let's go back to Italo Calvino. What a wonderful thing to be so in tune with the scene in front of your eyes that you can pick up on every moving detail and appreciate each one separately...

Is it though? A tiny yellow leaf is a beautiful thing. A single fluttering, falling leaf is a beautiful thing. Is it sad that when we look at a hundred leaves floating to the ground from an autumnal tree, we don't appreciate each leaf in turn? No, I don't think it is. We can look at our feet and choose one particularly beautiful leaf. We can pick it up and run our fingers over its surface and feel the veins and the knots and imperfections in its surface. We can look closely at the colour variations and the way the light shines through it and seems to make it glow...

And then we can look back at the scene and we can see the beauty of the golden snowfall of all the leaves falling separately but also as one. We can understand that each leaf is a unique object like the one in our hand, but we will never be able to concentrate on a hundred different moving things at once. Our brain takes in the overall scene and condenses all the details into one event. And that way we can understand it as a whole.

Similarly, each ballet dancer is a unique moving object and each one is beautiful in their own right. But the real magic lies in the synchronicity of many dancers moving as one. When they get every detail right, every single part of their body moving in time with every other dancer, the result is like a single living being.

Now, take the same scene: twenty ballet dancers on a stage, each one gracefully moving their arms in unison. Except this time one dancer is half a beat behind the rest, her hand reaching her shoulder while the rest have theirs over their heads. What you will see instead of a single moving unit, is the one person doing something different to the rest. And the likelyhood is you will feel uncomfortable about it because it doesn't fit, it doesn't work.

I'm not a ballet conniseur... I don't have the first clue about ballet, but from the few times I have watched it, I know this is how I see it. It's not just ballet either. The same theory works for many things in life:

- a flock of birds soaring as one. One bird breaks off and flies in a new direction but the others don't follow. A person watching the scene will see one large moving object, and one single bird. 

- a garden is full of bright orange flowers. Except for one lone purple flower. We will not look at each single orange flower. We will see an orange flower bed and a purple flower.

I could go on and on, but I expect you get the picture.

I think we all have an inbuilt system that reacts to details that don't fit with the bigger picture. We may feel uncomfortable about them, disgusted even. But we can also react with fascination, interest, and sometimes pride. Isn't this where 'individualism' comes from? We all know that in a group of people wearing suits, our attention will fall on the person in jeans and a t-shirt... or vica versa.

But why would we want to be the one thing that doesn't work in a beautiful system of small parts moving as one? I would imagine it is because we want to be the one thing that is seen. We want to be that one leaf that is picked up and treasured while the others fall to the ground and are forgotten, part of the moment but never appreciated individually.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

What do you live for?


These kind of thoughts always seem to come to me in the wee hours of the morning when I'm drifting between sleep and consciousness. Why is that? As if I'd really rather be philosophical and contemplative than SLEEPING?!

Still, it's something I've been thinking about a fair amount recently in one way or another. Funny though, it's one of those little phrases that you hear so much it becomes almost meaningless. Until one day you find yourself really asking yourself the question, and suddenly it's the most important answer you ever looked for.


My whole life, I have had visions of what I would like from my own future. It began with
"I want to be a princess and live in a tower with a dragon" until it became clear that real human girls don't actually morph into Disney characters as they grow up. And so then it was:
"When I grow up I want to be an astronaught. Either that or I'm going to open my own cafe and make cakes all day" (at the time, the two options didn't seem so far apart as they do now).

And as my life shuffled on, my ambitions shifted and morphed through vet, fashion designer, unemployed housewife and mother with at least 3 kids, painter, interior designer, illustrator, graphic designer... as if I was playing out my own future in my head until I found enough reasons not to do it.

But then last night it occurred to me clearly for the first time... those things on my list... they're not who I am... they're what I am. And this is where it gets complicated.

I think it's another case of not living by everyone else's rules. Because to me, it seems that we spend the first 25-30 years of our lives living by the question "What do you do?" (it changes from what WILL you do to what DO you do around about year 18-20) before we realise our lives are in our own hands and we start thinking about whether it's actually what we want. As if our jobs are the most important thing in our lives.

Are they?

I mean, we have options here, though very few of us choose to take them. We don't have to spend forty of our ninety-odd waking hours a week trapped in some office or behind some counter. But it's what almost everybody does. And then when we're introduced to someone new, they ask us 'So, what do you do?' and we reply 'Oh, I work in this office in town. It's pretty sweet, I sit in front of this computer screen all day and I get lots of money.'

OK, so maybe that's not it word for word, but the answer will inevitably be something along those lines. I know because it's what I've been doing for the last 8 years... invariably subsituting 'sweet' for 'shite', 'computer screen' for 'till' and 'lots of money' for 'bugger all money'.

And so we all go around introducing ourselves as our jobs. Why is it that we do this? Why, when faced with the question 'So, what do you do?' why don't we reply 'I make music on my computer and then I go out to nightclubs and get wasted and dance for hours and hours and talk rubbish to people. Then when I've got over my hangover I get in my car and I drive to the beach and I go surfing. Then I find pubs that serve gorgeous food and I take my friends there and we laugh and eat and drink all night. Then I curl up in my amazing feather duvet and drink tea and watch anime films. Or I make more music on my computer until I have to go to work.' Doesn't all that say more about a person than which computer or till they sit behind?

The point I am meandering towards is that I am concerned about my own ambitions and my own answer to the question 'what do you do?'

Last night, I realised that the question 'what do you do' is so closely linked to 'what do you live for' and yet at the same time, it's so far apart from it. They should be the same thing, shouldn't they? Everyone can give answers to the question 'what do you live for?' All you need to do is think of the things that make you the happiest. And if you want happiness from your life, shouldn't you be doing what you are living for? But how many people can answer both questions with the same answer?


I thought about what I live for and this is what I came up with:

sunshine and blue skies
trees
beaches
cosy pub evenings
travelling to exciting new places
great food
great sex
great hugs
great kisses
festivals
dancing
curling up in my duvet on a winter day with a mug of coffee and a good book
creating a masterpiece I can be proud of

It seems sad that nobody can make a life from these things, because to live a life, we need money. It's a closed circuit: without money, I couldn't have any of those things in my life, to get money, I have to give some of those things up. There is no job where you can get paid to create beautiful things, go to festivals with someone who's really good in bed, and spend the whole time dancing and eating amazing food, then curl up in the evening with a good book and a duvet.

Oh... on second thoughts... this description is sounding familiar... sounds like my last 2 summers... hmmm. Except that I never made any money, it only barely paid for itself.

And this it the crux of the whole matter for me. Because if I choose to live my life by the things I love, I will never have enough money to buy my own house. I will always be in debt. I will never settle down into a career. I will never be able to buy expensive furniture or electronics. I will never own a pair of designer sunglasses.

So which do I choose?

Well the choice is made I suppose. Here I am living it. I never liked designer sunglasses anyway.

they're just not me...

















Sunday, 10 June 2012

Being a single woman


Before reading this, I think it'd help you to understand where I'm coming from here: of course, this is not a blog specifically aimed at women by any means! But on this one occasion, I'm writing from a very personal perspective, which happens to be that of a 28 year old woman who has 'offcially' (in naming terms at least) been single for about five years. I'm writing for myself as much as for anyone else who feels frustrated, confused, proud, glad, angry (etc) about being single.

If you are a woman who understands these words, your first pleasure can be found in the knowledge that you have experienced something in life that many others haven’t. If you are a woman who truly understands these words, then you can add a further gratification (even if it’s a bittersweet one) in knowing that you have felt feelings that many others haven’t. What is life anyway, if it’s not to experience and feel things?

http://www.bnr-art.com/garmash/dreamingoflove.html

Being a single woman is being alone.

We know how it feels to make all of our decisions alone, for ourselves and nobody else. Big decisions, long term decisions: what am I going to do with my life, where am I heading, what is my aim?

We know how it feels to make all of our small, short term decisions alone: what am I going to eat for dinner? What shall I do this weekend?

We understand the empowerment and freedom of this capacity, and at the same time, its loneliness.


Being a single woman is being in charge of our own happiness.

We can’t fall into another’s arms when we are feeling weak, sad or scared. We hold ourselves up. We choose to wallow or we choose to find our own forms of comfort. We can be proud of the strength we must find in our darkest times.


Being a single woman is having space and time.

We have physical space: we can stretch out in our beds; we can decorate our homes with pretty things and never have to explain their purpose; we can go where we choose, when we choose.

We have mental space: we have only one person’s problems to concern ourselves with: our own.

And we have emotional space: we have not promised our hearts to one person. We can find that closeness with whoever needs and deserves it.

But we also have a space in our lives that couples do not. Time to ourselves can be both gloriously indulgent and painfully isolated.


Being a single woman, it is easy to search for answers we will never find to questions that we do not like to acknowledge.

We will question why we are alone when so many others have found love. We will ask if we have acted in a way that has led to our being single. We will ask if there really is someone out there who truly wants to be with us, and wonder if we may have met this person already but somehow missed our chance.

We will look into our past relationships with sentimentality, and with bitterness.

We will wonder if we have been scarred so badly, we will now live a whole lifetime of being a single woman.

And we will never reach a conclusion. There is no conclusion to be made, our lives are simply what they are.

But we still hold somewhere near our hearts, the beautiful expectancy of future love.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Understanding

How much am I going to own up to my own quirks and insecurities in this particular blog. Hmmm let's see how it pans out shall we?

I'll start with a sad truth. A very old friendship broke down recently. I was angry at first and then when the dust settled, I was sad. I knew that we both had a part to play in it, we'd both upset each other on quite a deep level. Without meaning to hurt anyone, we'd both pushed buttons, poured salt into wounds, touched delicate nerves... and probably many other cliches. This is what happens when you know someone well enough to get right to their most buried insecurities.

At the end of the day, we just didn't really see eye to eye any more and we were getting frustrated with each other.

But when someone you love turns to you and lists all the things they consider you to be doing wrong, you kind of have to ask yourself a few questions. You may start with 'Can I really love this person if they're going to say shit like that to me,' but you'd have to be pretty thick skinned not to eventually find yourself asking questions that are more along the line of 'do I really do that?'

I did.

And then I wanted to know how much of it was the truth and how much of it was just her hurt and anger coming out.

I've since decided that it was a mixture of both, and in fact, much of it was even more complicated than that. In some cases, it was likely that I she was reading my actions completely differently to how I intended. And a big lesson that I've learnt from this whole malarky is that I have a tendency to want to 'make everything better', which isn't necessarily a good thing.

I suppose as a creative person, my line of sight is always what things can be rather than what they are right now. I didn't realise how much of an effect this has, not just on my creative projects, but on everything about me. I do it with food, I do it with my living space, with my job, even with the people in my life. I can always see potential. To me that has always meant looking at things and not just seeing their face value, but seeing all the good stuff that's there waiting to spring to life if it could just be given the chance. But I never looked at this from the flip side of the coin before.

It makes sense that if a person seems unhappy, there is potential for them to be happy if they're just given the chance. But I've started to understand that you can't always help them to do this, and that sometimes by trying to find some sort of 'cure' you can easily create further problems. For a start, ackowledging that there's something 'wrong' with them or their lives may just add fuel to the fire. They might feel belittled, or smothered, no matter how good your intentions are.

And once I had accepted that I did sometimes act this way and probably had upset my friend by doing it, something struck me... Jesus, I was even doing it to myself.

It occurred to me that when I'm unhappy with my life, 99% of the time it's because I can see what I would like it to be and hate the fact that it's not that way right now. I can see the potential but I can't seem to unleash it. I always called this 'hope' in the past, or 'goals', or 'ambitions'. But now I am beginning to wonder (and I'll put the emphasis on beginning as this is really the first time I've considered it)  whether I am, in a way, smothering myself?!

I realised I may have upset my friend by trying to fix things when she didn't want them to be fixed. I decided at this point that I would, from now on, accept the people in my life for what they are right now. That way I wouldn't frustrate my current friends (ie trying to make things better for them, and ending up making them worse), and I also wouldn't risk more anguish to myself by getting close to people who would inevitably hurt me in the end (ie becoming fixated on how great they could be if they just stopped being such a twat)! But what I hadn't considered is that I could do this for myself as well! Have I been going about this all topsy-turvy? Have I been trying to unleash this uncovered potential and fix myself and my life, while all along it would have been better just to say 'Well this is me right now' and accept it?

Well, I don't know right now how I feel about this. I might end up just deciding that this new way of looking at things is just another rule I'm writing for myself. I don't even know if it is possible to completely accept your life and not want to change it... but right now it seems to make sense that I may find everything easier if I just give myself a bit of a break.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Thinking For Ourselves

I saw an interesting little article on Facebook a few days ago. It was called 'The Mayonniase Jar and Two Cups of Coffee' and the moral of it was that you should concentrate first on the big, important matters in your life, and then find room for the smaller, less important things, because if you do it the other way around then you won't have any space in your life for things that matter.

I liked it. I read it and I smiled and agreed and thought 'yes that's a beautifully simple way of explaining it'. And then I thought some more, and I changed my mind. The thing is, it is beautifully simple... and life isn't.

I remember being told as a teenager that I needed to concentrate more on the important things because I was only causing myself problems by getting all caught up in the details.

I spent years trying to work out what exactly that meant! I thought I was concentrating on the important things. So when I was told I needed to concentrate on the 'important things' rather than the 'details', I started looking at what was important to me, wondering if I had it wrong, wondering what exactly the 'details' were in comparisson to the 'important things'.

The trouble with pieces of advice like these, is that they are taken from another person's perspective. I think advice of this sort comes from a caring place, but (as with so much 'helpful' advice) neglects the fact that everybody is different and we all have our own agendas at the end of the day. It's all very well to say 'you're ignoring the important things' but what if my 'important things' are totally different to your 'important things'?

The moral of the Mayonniase Jar story was that you should first concentrate on family, friendships, beliefs and passions. Then you should fit in your job, your house, your car around those things. And everything else is the little things, or the 'details' I guess.

But look at this realistically now... Let's imagine that you're having a stressful week. You've got a big work project that needs finishing. You haven't seen your mates in ages and maybe someone's organised to meet up on a day that you've already put aside for work. Your car's broken down and you need to get the funds together to fix it. You haven't been food shopping so you've only got, I don't know... a tin of tomatoes and a box of eggs in the cupboard, but what you really fancy is homemade lasagne. You've been wanting for aaaagggeees to spend some time on a passion of yours... let's say you love to mix but you haven't had the chance to get your records out in a few weeks now. You really want to put together a set list of tunes that make you feel happy. The garden needs watering and weeding and the new seeds you've planted need a bit of TLC. Your rooms a tip, you haven't done the washing up and all your clothes are in the laundry bin. So... what do you do? What are the 'important' things' and what are the 'details'?

Let's assume we're living by the Mayonniase Jar theory. So we first take care of the things that are important to us according to this theory: we say 'fuck it' to work, that's second on the list. We go out with our mates instead, after all, we haven't seen them in ages. We then concentrate on our passion for mixing, and we put together that set list. We even decide to buy some new tunes that make us feel extra specially happy! We feel great!

Then we get to tackling the second most important things. But now we've got ourselves in trouble. That important work project didn't get done and because we bunked off work and went out, we didn't make enough money to cover the cost of getting the car fixed and we've spent what we did have on records.

No matter how good we felt about our playlist and our new records, we probably feel pretty crap by now.

Ok, so let's take this from a different angle. Let's assume that the 'important things' are the things that must get sorted. So then work would come first. Everything must be put aside for work because if we don't do that important work project then we won't get paid and then everything else on the list will be impossible. But of course, that means we can't hook up with our friends, so we feel pretty sad about that. But at least we can get the car fixed, and get some food shopping in... we can't live without food so I'm guessing that's an 'important thing'.

What comes next then? Well, if 'important things' are things that must get sorted, then I suppose the washing up would need to be done, and the garden would need watering. Oh but now we're running out of hours in the day and we still haven't done anything we actually enjoy. It's been such a stressful week with this work project, and now we've spent all our free time doing things that 'must be done' and totally neglecting everything that we love. We've probably given ourselves such a long and strict mental 'to do' list that we feel even more stressed!

I think what I'm trying to get at is that we need to resist giving ourselves rules like these to live by. We all have brains and we all have the ability to use them wisely if we just trust our own judgment. Maybe one person would be happy to bunk off work and hang out with their mates and deal with the consequences later. Another would maybe do a bit of work then get their records out. And another would prefer to get work out of the way and then concentrate on having fun. Whatever works best for you is what's best.

We don't give our brains enough credit. We don't use them enough. We seem to find it simpler to live by other people's rules. I can't count the number of times recently I have turned 180 degrees on rules; rules I had given myself years ago without ever thinking the thing through at the time!

And I'm talking about DETAILS here, not just the 'important things'. (Really, what is the difference anyway, other than personal perspective?)

Here's an example of a rule:

"It's important to look good. When you look good, you feel good. When you look good, men will find you attractive and people will take you seriously." 

So here are some things we (women) do to look good: we shave our legs and our armpits, we dye and straighten our hair, we get piercings, we wear high heeled shoes, we wear fake nails, fake tan and maybe even fake eyelashes, we pluck our eyebrows, we diet to try and get thin enough that our hip and collarbones show through our skin because it's considered elegant.

But we're not using our brains when we do these things.

You shave your legs so they look good, but then a day or two later, your bloke might run his hand over your leg and he won't be thinking 'that leg looks good', he'll be thinking 'ouch, stubbly'.

You dye and straighten your hair so it'll look good, and then you have to deal with frizzy, dry hair. You used to be able to run your hands through it. Now it's more like sticking your fingers into a bail of hay.

You have your ears pierced and you wear big eyecatching earrings. They look really cool but then you go to hug someone and you spike them in the cheek.

You put yourself through misery and hunger pangs to loose that extra weight, then you mention your 'wobbly bits' to your bloke and he tells you he loves your wobbly bits. You don't believe him because your rule says the opposite. But the truth is- he does love your wobbly bits- they're the bits he doesn't have, and to him they feel great!

The whole beauty thing is one example of only thinking things through with one perspective- on this occasion, the perspective of sight. But sight is by no means our only sense. Touch is such an important sense and we don't pay it enough attention when beauty is concerned.

There are so many other examples of rules that we tend to live by without using our brains to work things out for ourselves. It infuriates me that it's so easy for us all to follow by example rather than to stop and think things through for ourselves. In many cases we may even find ourselves ostracized for not following the rules that are in place. And in some, it's damn near impossible not to follow the rules, and thinking for ourselves only leads to feelings of frustration and helplessness. But I would still say that I think we should all try. If you're looking for self confidence, then you have to learn to trust your own decisions. And if nothing else, it is a really good feeling when you work something out for yourself!

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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Hooray for Feng Shui

A good old cleaning session is always good for the soul.

If there's one thing I neglect when I'm feeling down, it's tidying! It's just one of those jobs that I can't bring myself to do when I've got a lot on my plate and I don't feel up to much. But then it's a double edged knife, because when you're spending a lot of time in a cluttered mess, it doesn't exactly help your head.

So invariably, when I come out of my blue patches, I always have a good tidy up and de-clutter... maybe throw away a pile of stuff I've decided I can do without. Sometimes I go full whack and rearrange my living space. This feels like a change, and never fails to make me feel better.

A few weeks back I decided that not only was I going to have a good tidy up, but I was going to have a bash at a spot of Feng Shui. I have often considered doing it, but have never known enough about it, or really bothered to look into it. But a friend of mine lent me a simple (simplicity is, after all a major key to Feng Shui) and beautifully designed book called 'Chinese Whispers, Feng Shui' by Rosalyn Dexter. It describes the main principals behind the teachings, and gives suggestions on how to use them in your own home.

Now, I don't know how much I believe what I read, but I am a strong advocate of the principal that if something works for you, even if it is just a placebo, then it can't be bad. So I just accepted Dexter's words and tried to understand the thinking behind it.

The basic idea behind Feng Shui is that everything has a flow of energy through it and you can do certain things to use this to your advantage. Since I like the thought that everything in the universe is part of one system where each separate object is affected by and linked to every other object, this principal resonates quite nicely for me. Several Chinese teachings go together to make up Feng Shui, including systems of colours, numbers, astrology and the elements. I got the feeling I was really just catching a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg, but it seemed enough to go on, so I made some notes and drew out a plan for my bedroom based on a grid system given in the book.

Once I knew where everything was going, I started the process. I began by shifting everything from my room... I mean EVERYTHING. All that was left was my bedframe balancing on it's headboard, my red armchair and my desk, all pushed together in the centre of my room. I hoovered and then did a little energy clensing ritual, as suggested in the book. Again, not sure how much I believe in this stuff, but where's the harm if it isn't true, and if it is true, well that's good then isn't it?!

So, to clense a room and get the energy flowing again, you need to start by getting rid of as much clutter as possible. Then you fill a bowl with water, light a candle, and burn some incense (the book said frankencense, but I chose Nag Champra as it's my favourite smell). You then walk around the circumference of the room, clockwise or anticlockwise, whatever your instinct tells you, and as you walk, sprinkle a little sea salt around the edges of the room. Apparently this absorbs negative energy. Once you've done this, you walk around again, this time with metal windchimes. You need to chose windchimes that sounds good to you. All windchimes have a different pitch, and it's pretty personal whether you like the sound or not.

So, you retrace your footsteps, this time tinkling your windchimes. Spend a little more time in areas of the room where you think the energy might have become stagnant- corners for instance, or gaps between furniture. When you've circled the room once, rinse the windchimes with water. Then walk around the room with the windchimes three more times, rinsing them after each circuit. On the final round, concentrate your mind on picturing the energy in the room flowing freely. Once you're done, throw away the water from the bowl.

My housemate was sitting in the garden not far from my bedroom window while I was doing the ritual. She assures me it worked, as everything around her started creaking wierdly when I started tinkling the windchimes!

Once I'd got all the good energy going again, it was time to re-fill my room, putting furniture, ornaments, curtains, throws, cushions... everything I own in a specific place based on the rules written in the book. I was actually surprised to find that I already had many things in the right places. But I did have to make a few changes. For a start, my bed needed to move. Apparently it's really bad to have your head under a window while you sleep, or to have your feet facing a door, and I was doing both of these things. The best place for your bed is to have your head against a wall and your feet facing another wall, but to make sure you can see the door easily. If you can't, it's likely to screw with your instinctual fight-or-flight mechanism.

Then you should place objects in your room using the following rules:

Draw a plan of your room and split it into 9 squares like a noughts and crosses board. The centre square is number 5. The other squares are determined by which way your room is facing: 1-North, 2-Southwest, 3-East, 4-Southeast, 6-Northwest, 7-West, 8-Northeast, 9-South.

Section 1 
is Water 
and represents your career and your journey through life. You should keep colours in this section to navy and black, though if you feel you need more energy in this section of your life, you can use white, gold, silver and grey to boost it. Avoid yellow, ochre, orange or brown unless you want your career and life journey to slow down a bit! In this section you should place images of moving water, an aquarium, glass objects, seascapes, mirrors and bright lights.

Section 2 
is Earth 
and represents unions and relationships. Yellow is a good natural colour to use in this section. If you want growth in this sector of your life, use red and purple. Don't have green or pale blue in this section, unless you would like less energy in it. Place images of union, pairs of things, crystals, cushions, ceramics and flowers. Don't have any solitary figures in this section. A pair of candles is a good thing to have here.



Section 3 
is Thunder 
and represents health, vitality, elders, family and new beginnings. It's colour is green and pale blue, with navy and black to give extra energy, and white, gold, silver and grey to reduce the energy. Place images of rising energy, sunrise, tall plants, music, TV, stereo, bamboo, wood, and family photos in this area.



Section 4 
is Wind 
and represents wealth, blessings and growth. It's colours are the same as section 3. Place tall plants, images of rising energy, wooden objects, family photos, ceramics, gold coins, fans and hanging mobiles in this section.

Section 6 
is Heaven 
and represents leadership, achievement, helpful friends and mentors. Keep colours to white, gold, silver and grey, using yellow, ochre, brown and orange to create energy and red and purple to prevent it. In this section you should have images of support, and metal windchimes.



Section 7 
is Lake 
and represents creativity, joy and children. Its colours are the same as section 6. Place images of playfullness, childrens paintings, animals, vases of flowers, ornaments, games and metal windchimes in this area.



Section 8 
is Mountain 
and represents inner knowledge, wisdom and quiet. Colours in this section should be orange, brown and ochre, with red and purple to add positive energy and green and pale blue to create negative energy. Put heavy objects and cabinets in this section to represent the mountain.

Section 9 
is Fire 
and represents illumination of self, reputation and fame. Colours for this section are red and purple. Use green and pale blue to create energy, and navy and black to create negative energy in this area. Display images of heroes, ambitions and dreams, paintings and sculptures.

As well as this, you should think about where you place your furniture. Think of energy as a kind of wind blowing in through your door and around your room, getting into all the nooks and crannies. You don't want lots of places where it can get stuck. The book also suggested using throws to cover sharp corners, which are said to cause a turbulant energy flow. 

It's also very important to make sure that you like what you're looking at! Common sense really- but don't have anything out on show that makes you feel bad. Take down any photos or pictures you might have that remind you of things you'd rather not think about. Only display things that fill you with happy memories and thoughts. Place mirrors carefully. Mirrors are very important in Feng Shui. Used properly they can make a space look bigger. It's also a really good idea to have them facing something that looks nice. So if you've got a lovely view from your window, put your mirror opposite the window. If you have a brick wall outside your window, make sure you can't see it in the mirror! I have also made a conscious effort to hide everything in my bedroom that has anything to do with work. This is my place for resting now.

I noticed the difference in my room immediately. At first I put it down to the feeling of change and the fact that my room was tidy... but in the weeks since I rearranged it, I have loved spending time in my bedroom. It feels cosy. I can't put my finger on what I like about it now... it just feels nice to be in!