Quote: on coming alive

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.

Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

– Howard Thurman
***

One of my favourite people told me today that she sees me as a “PowerFrau”. That translates literally as “power woman”, but kind of loses something in the translation. She means she thinks I’m always doing/achieving something. She occasionally has a point. In the last 6 months I have, among other less noteworthy things, dug a pond, been to evening classes, survived a breakup, sat exams, moved house, set up a 350l aquarium, written and presented a dissertation, driven across Germany, visited my family in England twice, produced the prizes for a chemistry competition, helped a friend pack the contents of her house ready to move and worked more or less full time.

I don’t feel like a PowerFrau at the moment though. I feel like someone’s stolen my batteries, and maybe filled the space with lead. There are some days where life is just hard. Everything seems heavier than normal and it counts as an achievement to survive the entire day intact. It doesn’t help that it’s damp and dark for most of my non-working hours.

What I need to do to feel alive is probably sleep more. My sleep dept might not be as obviously well-recorded as my sister’s, but it’s still made it’s mark and left rainbow-coloured suitcases under my eyes. I look forward to a time where I’m not dragging myself to work, where I feel up to cooking, where I can imagine going anywhere non-urgent, for pleasure, instead of curling up on my sofa. Where watching the fish is something I do between activities instead of the main attraction. Where washing my hair isn’t a hassle and going shopping is something I can be excited about.

That’s a vision for a future in which I am slightly more alive than I am now. The future beyond that will hopefully be even better, I just can’t picture it yet.

Baby steps.

And sleep.

Lots of sleep.

On days without news

Usually, the radio goes on when my colleague gets to work, and goes off when I leave. He can’t stand adverts, so we listen to ‘Deutschland Radio’ and ‘Deutschland Radio Kultur’  which generally makes for a good mixture of news and interesting information about a huge range of topics. Anything from book reviews to current scientific research to new films to phone-ins about illnesses to the latest in-depth reports about bombings or shootings or fires or whatever’s going on in the world, generally including interviews with multiple important, knowledgeable people.

Usually, I quite enjoy the mixture. There are obviously topics I’m not that interested in, but none of the programs run longer than 90 minutes, lots of them only 10 minutes or so.

Usually, we talk about what we’ve heard. I have a million background questions, and my colleague has a lot of excess knowledge.

This week, I am alone in the workshop.

I haven’t turned the radio on once. I’m playing CDs and enjoying letting my thoughts do their own thing, rather than be directed by the radio. Enya doesn’t have lyrics you need to listen to, sometimes not even any you can listen to accidentally. For someone who generally pays more attention to lyrics than the music, it’s quite nice to tune them out. To tune out all the words. There are so many words. All the time. The world is full of words.

When I think about it, it’s weird not knowing what’s happening, but on balance, I don’t miss the constant input.

At least this week.

Next week my colleague comes back, and the radio will go back on.

In the meantime, I’m going to sail away from it all.

🙂

On finding the cage door

Postcard:
“Take the time to do the things that make you happy”

I picked up this postcard because of the message in the middle. I didn’t notice (don’t ask me how) that it was covered with pictures of keys and an open cage.

I am one step closer to opening my own cage, so it seems appropriate.

On not being a sword

I swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat on the edge while she waved her hands about.

“…your body wants to flow, you see,” she said, “it’s being held in place at the moment, but it isn’t happy. That’s why you have so many stressed and tightened muscles. You’re more like water. Water’s powerful, but it’s not a sword. You aren’t a sword….”

I expect she had more to say, my osteopath, but I don’t remember what; I was trying to work out what to do with those ideas.

***

Since then, my thoughts keep wandering back to the image of water trying to fight like a sword, or trying to be a sword.

***

The way I see it, water tends to flow round or over the things that get in its way. It doesn’t fight everything, at least not immediately. I have the feeling that when it does fight, water tends to fight more slowly than swords do.

It’s not weak though, even if it is slow. All the ravines and canyons, all the hilly landscapes, all the washed-away sea breakers and man-made constructs, all the round stones on the riverbed/at the beach, prove that. And the amazing lack of unrounded shards of glass on the beach show that it doesn’t always take as much time as one thinks.

The rain falls drop by drop. Even tsunamis and floods take their time to build up to the finale. But when they go, they go. When they’re ready, they make themselves known, often with catastrophic results.

There are very few ways to permanently keep water from going where it wants to go. Dams break, pipes burst, riverbanks overflow, the tide comes in, regardless who commands it to stay away.

Pretty much eveything natural shows how much water can achieve, given enough time. Not only in big crashy ways, but also in small, hidden ways.

All things need water. Nothing survives long without water. In fact, there’d be no life at all without water. The whole planet only exists the way it does because there’s water on it. The blue planet. our blue planet. The only one I want to live on, even if they reckon they’ve found another 10 out there in space. (But I digress)

Swords, on the other hand, aren’t known for their life-giving properties. l suspect lots of people could imagine the benefits of the public still having swords and swordfights but I don’t know anyone who can’t live without one.

***

When someone tells me I’m not something, I immediately wonder why not, and whether they meant that in a good way (or not), and whether they were hoping I was or are happy that I’m not, and whether I was aiming to be that thing at all and whether I should have been…. (etc etc etc ad infinitum).

In this case, after quite a lot of thought, I think I’m pleased to not be a sword. And if I’m not a sword, water’s not a bad thing to be instead.

🙂

On ice cream and no spoon

My younger self spent many (MANY) hours sitting on benches in various parks and town squares, eating icecream. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends, sometimes (and probably most often) with my siblings.

This was such a common occurrence, that we each kept an emergency spoon in our bags or wallets.

Yesterday I found myself alone in a new town, with a couple of hours to kill. It was incredibly warm, I had my luggage with me so I couldn’t do much easy sight seeing,  and to be honest, I really couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere or do anything. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to spend time doing.

On the other hand, I hadn’t drunk anything since early in the morning, and dehydration isn’t fun. 

I walked from the train station to the nearest supermarket and looked at all the ice creams on offer. Then I remembered that I no longer carry my spoon with me.

It’s been years since I had opportunity to use it… That was extraordinarily upsetting. I don’t know how I let such an integral part of my identity slide so far without even realising it.

In the end, I bought a packet of mini-milks. They have wooden sticks and taste like walking home from school as a little kid.

That was an adequate substitute, but I intend to find my spoon when I get back, and put it back in its rightful place in my purse.

🙂

On hurting people without meaning to

I’ve just been jolted out of an uneasy sleep in an uncomfortable aircraft seat by a food trolley. The absent minded trolley pusher rammed the trolley into my knee. I can only imagine it wasn’t intentional, so I can’t really be cross, even if it a) hurt, and b) woke me up. 

It seems like a good day for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

DB bashed me with my suitcase as he lifted it out of the car. The guy behind me at security bashed me with his tray while trying to juggle with it, his paperwork, a phone and his bag. A lady bashed me with her bag when she turned round waiting for boarding. 

I don’t much appreciate being bashed, yet none of those bashes were on purpose. No one set out to hurt me, they just did, without realising until afterwards, or in the case of the lady, not at all. And they all apologised (except the lady).

I wonder how many more times people will bash me before I get to my brother’s house. I wonder how many times it’ll take before I actually get cross with the basher.

I wonder how much I hurt people by mistake, just by living, just by going about my day. I wonder how many people I hurt without even realising it. Not just by wielding my suitcase carelessly, but also with my words, my choices, my actions. I wonder how many of those people never say anything, how many wait until they’re really mad at the world in general to snap and say something, or yell something.

On therapy

The first session starts in 14 minutes.

I feel totally unprepared, but I hope it won’t matter.

I am also quite sweaty, which is worse than unprepared. The 18 degrees they promised us this morning when I put jeans on, have turned into at least 25, probably closer to 28, and the leisurely walk  I meant to have via the bank to the station, turned into a rush to get there before being late, and included locking my card because I couldn’t remember the pin number.

The reason I was rushing in the first place, is that I couldn’t work out how to get the printer to print my health and illness history onto a single page of A4 (or 2) as opposed to spread over 9.
Theoretically, I could have written it on paper, by hand. Or into word, where I can see the edges of the paper. Instead, I wanted to use excel. Theoretically, even that would have been a good idea, if properly executed. Which it wasn’t.

Instead, it was fussed over, in tremendous detail, until I realised I had to leave a couple of minutes ago, then rushed, without formatting or spellchecking, to get it at least printed, in whatever form possible. 

I am trying, by way of writing this out, to bring myself back out of panic mode, and into, ‘try and get a grip’ mode.

If not quite succeeding counts as preparation for therapy, then I guess I am prepared after all….
Wish me luck, or good questions, or whatever you feel is appropriate…

On cheering on v. cheering up

Kate asked me earlier if I would prefer a partner who would cheer me up when I was down, or one who would cheer me on when I was doing well. (Or at least words to that effect).

I was at work, and a bit distracted, but I automatically said, “both”, followed a little while later by, “but if I had to choose, then one who can cheer me up”.

Now, on the train home from work, I wonder why I chose that.

I think, although I’m not sure, that I can find other people to cheer me on when things are working well.

On a good day, I can even cheer myself on.

On a bad day, I am mostly incapable of seeing or thinking enough good things to bring me back up to neutral, never mind to happy. I’m a determinedly independent climber, so I don’t often ask for help to get out of my hole. When I do, it’s generally because it’s got really really deep, so deep I can hardly see the sky, and have started forgetting that there’s life outside the hole. That’s quite late to ask, and the climb is a long one. Much longer than necessary.

If my partner could do his magic on my mood every time it started digging, I could probably do the rest.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Maybe I’m not actually that good at cheering myself on.

Maybe, if I had a personal cheerleader, I wouldn’t feel the need to dig in the first place. 

I think I’ll stick with both. That covers most, if not all eventualities.

🙂

Good question though.

On why I think life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster

Choice.
Decisions. 
Ability to choose. 
At least some things. 
Sometimes.

***

As much as I hate to admit it, I quite like Ronan Keating’s “Life is a roller coaster” song. I don’t agree with him though. I think it’s more like a pinball machine.

***

Until a couple of weeks ago, I’d only ever played pinball on the computer, or on a board so old it actually had pins (=nails) in.

Then I went to a national pinball convention. I lost track of how many different machines I played on/with, but it was “many”.

I even had a go at the “classic” tournament. Classic because it features older machines. I wasn’t very good, but I also wasn’t the very worst (by quite a long way), so I was chuffed, considering that it was my very tournament on my very first day of practise.

Anyway.

On a roller coaster, you get into your seat at the beginning and “just have to ride it” until you get off at the other end. You have absolutely no control over what happens in between. Okay, you can control some of your reaction. You can probably choose to scream or throw your hands in the air or close your eyes….or not. You probably can’t choose whether or not to throw up afterwards. You certainly can’t choose the direction or when to stop or change speed.

Pinball is different.

Granted, there is a lot of chance involved, (pinball machines were even banned in the past because they were considered purely based on luck), and there are things you can’t control, like what the bumpers do when you hit them, what lights up when you go past, what the noises sound like, how many points you get for various sequences.

On the other hand, because you control the flippers, there’s also a lot of input potential. You have to choose to do something with that potential, and it helps to have the skill to achieve the desired effect (like getting the ball to go up the ramp or into one of the holes), but it’s there. If you don’t do anything, the ball does its thing briefly, then falls through the gap between the flippers and you die.
If you do manage to catch/hit the ball, you prolong that life. That gives you the next chance and the next and the next.

Sometimes, reaching a certain number of points, or activating certain areas creates something like a safety net. Even if you would normally die, you don’t, you get a new ball instead and can carry on playing. Even if you don’t achieve those bonus lives, you still have 2 further chances, or 4 depending on the machine. You can aim for things, learn what happens if you hit and if you miss. Sometimes you aim for the ramp and land in a hole. Sometimes landing in the hole is bad, sometimes it takes you to a different level where you unlock new possibilities. Sometimes you can die on that level, sometimes it catapults you back onto the first level with new energy and extra points, lives or abilities. Sometimes, regardless of skill and determination, the ball will suddenly take up nosediving and head down between the flippers without any warning, and with no chance to stop it.

Occasionally you get into a ‘Dauerschleife’, a routine of going round and round and round the same route: Flipper, bumper, bumper, light, flipper, bumper, bumper, light. To get out, you have to change something. Anything. Different angle, different strength, different timing. Sometimes that’s risky, sometimes it just feels risky. Sometimes the new ‘route’ is chaotic, sometimes it leads to a new Dauerschleife, sometimes it’s not exactly chaotic, but is continuously changing. That’s the most common. Change.

Occasionally, doing the same thing twice results in different outcomes, depending on what you did previously.

Occasionally you get bonus balls to be played at the same time, each whizzing round the board on its own mission, forcing you to split your concentration or risk losing both.

Talking of missions, some boards have a story line, a list of things to do, or collect, or hit. Some are less structured, preferring to offer differing musical notes, like a bell tower, or multiple colours – a kaleidoscope* of rainbow lights.

If you watch other people playing, you see an array of different styles and attitudes. Some tighten their muscles, stand gripping the edges of the machine, hoping somehow they can influence the course of the ball, or the reaction of the bumpers, with their tension. Others are relaxed, hardly concentrating, at least not noticeably. Some players laugh with the players next to them, some ignore everything around them. Some try to rock the machine, nudging it just enough to minimally change the angles of the board, the bumpers, the rebound, and steer the ball where they want it to go. Ohers go crazy, yelling and screaming and whooping and jumping…or kicking the machine.

In the end, no matter how you play, every ball ends up back in the box. Some live short intensive lives, some live long boring lives. The rest lead their lives somewhere in between. 

Every player dies eventually. Some just live longer, or more happily, or more excitingly than others.

***

I figure life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster. What do you think? What would you compare life to instead?

*collide-oscope?

On stepping stones

Stepping stones.

Millions of stepping stones.

And even more millions of litres of river.

Some of the stones aren’t really stones at all. Some are slippery. Some are tiny, some are close together but most aren’t. The ones that are, generally don’t lead across the river, just along the middle.

It might be deep, it might not be, it’s too frothy to tell.
(Wrote this last week. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t finished, but I’m not sure where I wanted to go with it, so I’m posting it as is.)

On change

Sometimes you get to the point where you have to change something.

Until then, you can cope and cope and cope.

That moment. The one that changes everything, can be tiny. One you might overlook if it didn’t happen at the exact right time.

There’s a special combination of attitude and exhaustion and hope and dread and longing and probably magic involved, that works with the circumstances and the strangers and the people you think you know, to produce a spark, to set all the balls rolling in new and exciting ways, to shake up the customary and create something amazing.

Revolutionary, if only on a small scale. A personal scale. The only one that really matters.

The newness, when it arrives, washes in, like the tide on a lumpy beach. Some parts flood completely, in one go, others take longer, the waves lapping longest at the shore of commitment and duty until they too relent and give up the fight ready to join the party.

Sometimes, after months of indecisive hesitation, you just know, and act, and relax.

And breathe. As if you’d somehow forgotten how to before, and only now remembered.

The kind of remembering which is more like relearning. Or learning for the first time.

Fresh. Deep. Exhilarating.
*breathes*

Again and again and again.

***

Tomorrow, or on Sunday,  I hope to finish the Dog series. This post needed writing today, otherwise I would have waited until afterwards.

On wishing myself well

This year I’m going to be selfish. I’m going to do the things I want to do with the people I want to do them with. I’m going to go where I want to go and see what I want to see. I’m going to figure out what’s really important to me and spend less time and thoughts on anything that isn’t. I’m going to eat more vegetables, even if that means eating by myself. I’m going to get my book finished and my website sorted out and my mini-company off the ground. I’m going to make time for myself and for catching up with the people who have been waiting for me to wake up to the notion that life is not only worth living, but also happens outside my house and the narrow constricts that have kept me too busy to talk. I’m going to keep up with my school work so that I don’t hurt my thumb writing like a banshee for the last few weeks before the exams. I’m going to get rid of lots of excess baggage – the things I surround myself with which I neither believe to be beautiful nor know to be useful and which have been weighing me down and holding me back by nagging at me to do something about them. I am going to marvel at the sunlight as it dances on the frost and maybe even dance myself if the opportunity arises. I miss dancing. I’m going to read more widely, paint more daringly and listen more loudly. I’m going to remind myself that I’m loved, and remember to make sure other people know that I love them. I’m going to swim 100km over the course of the year and hopefully manage to squeeze 80 lengths into an hour. I’m going to put more pictures up and make my space so pretty it’s like getting a mental hug every time I look at it. I’m going to learn how to use LaTex and how to keep my desk clear enough to put my new laptop down without worrying about it sliding down the paperwork mountain and crashing into my tub of paints or knocking the hopefully no longer overflowing dustbin over. I’m going to go iceskating and cycling and to the zoo. I’m going to sew more, write more, create more, sleep more. I’m going to find the time for all these things by wasting less working on other people’s dreams.

I think this is going to be a good year.

Not only do I wish myself well for the coming year, I also wish you all a fantastic year, doing the things you want to do :).

On sheep dogs

Do sheep dogs care about the sheep who stay where they’re told? Do they even notice them?

***

Today my thoughts kept circling back to sheepdogs.

I don’t think I’ve spent more than a handful of hours in my whole life watching sheepdogs working, but every time I get the chance, I am impressed.

Where the sheepdog-thoughts came from I have no idea. Here they are though.

And if anyone is actually knowledgeable about sheepdogs, please share your wisdom. 🙂

***

They presumably know the sheep who step outside the flock better than the rest; certainly spend more time attending to them.
Would they prefer to run with the flock themselves? Or do they like being outside it, playing an integral part, and still not really belonging? Not getting involved, yet still being involved.

Does all that running about energise them or wear them out? When all the sheep get to where they’re going, are they proud of their results or frustrated by the knowledge that it won’t last, that the next day is sure to present many of the same situations?

Are they going through the motions, doing what’s expected of them, or do they choose what to do, enjoying themselves and relishing in the challenges, stretching themselves with more and more ways to solve the same issues.

On coming home to empty shelves

To some that would be a problem, to me it was a reason to rejoice;

I have too much stuff.

Or not enough cupboards, depending on how you view these things.

I am currently trying to revise for several exams (December) and compile a bookload of photos and old emails for my grandparents for Christmas (also December, funnily enough). It is almost impossible to do either with DB complaining about the state of the house. As much as I don’t want to care about it, he has a point.

I am now also in the process of going through boxes and boxes of paperwork, old clothes, things I’ve acumulated along the way but don’t know what to do with. I am trying very hard not to go through everything individually (next year will presumably provide rainy days too), but rather get it into some semblance of order, where it can wait to be dealt with properly.

Last week, I was given 2 boxes of file-boxes, which I hope are the answer to all my paperwork problems.

Today, I came home to two brand new, empty, shelf units/doorless cupboards to stack them in.

Whoo!
(A post just rescued from the end of October. I still haven’t finished sorting, so the cupboards are still partially empty :(. This weekend calls for remedial action – and lots of revision and book compilation,,because I obviously haven’t finished those either ;))