I never thought I was an anxious person. A few years ago when I experienced anxiety and depression together I thought my world was falling apart. The sick feeling, the inability to be still or settled, sleeplessness and constant horrible feeling felt like the worst thing ever. And I remember saying that I’d never know what anxiety was before. Now, of course there is a difference between anxiety in its extreme form which is an illness and day-to-day anxiety which many of us experience. But I realise that I never recognised that day-to-day feeling as anxiety because I never let it permeate through long enough for it to reach my consciousness. Instead I would find ways to numb it, usually with sweet stuff. Other addictive behaviours like shopping or creating some drama also figured fairly high on my ‘coping mechanisms’, I use the phrase lightly.
Over the last few months I have been on a new learning curve. As part of a support group for compulsive eating I been ‘abstinent’ from sugar and other trigger foods for several months. That has taken care of the physical craving for all that stuff. But the hardest part, as everyone knows, is the mental obsession and the feelings that drive us to want to make ourselves feel better in the first place. Not so easy! And one of the first things that came up for me was, you got it, anxiety. At first I have to say I wasn’t too good at recognising it. Sometimes I must have it pointed out to me by my nearest and oh so dearest, “You are anxious” she’ll say, “about x or y”. My usual first response is to deny this vigorously. I didn’t get where I am today by admitting to having uncomfortable feelings! But I am trying to listen and not always be right ( That’s a Tough One). And 9 times out of 10 it’s true. ( It may be 10/10 but I have to have room for growth here). And then I am confronted with realising I have a Feeling That I Don’t Know What To Do With. My previous ‘coping mechanism’ hs been consigned to the bin ( food) and I am working on the shopping/drama/distraction ones one day at a time ( Sweet Jesus).
Last night for instance. I was giving a talk at the support group. This was the first time at that group that I had given a talk. I wanted to ‘get it right’. I re-wrote what I was going to say 3 times, I changed it again when I got to the meeting. I was pretty anxious. And this is even with a) planning b) praying c) knowing I was with friends. And I realised that the only thing to do was to say, ‘Yes, I am anxious!”. It didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do,
it was Just A Feeling. It wasn’t going to kill me. And the fear was what? That I wouldn’t get it right? That I’d make a mistake or make a fool of myself or not be helpful to someone else? Well phooey. Isn’t it wonderful how ego gets in the way of just being present and doing the job in front of you?!
So this morning I am sitting here knowing I did my best and that was good enough. That is pretty damn good for me to say. And today I am just going to be grateful to that anxiety when it comes along because it lets me know that all I can do is my best. And that the feeling will pass and today is always a new day.
It feels almost like summer, a day for throwing open the windows and revelling in the sun on your skin. I wore pale blue cotton trousers and a summer top and sat drinking a skinny cappuccino and reading my book feeling like a pampered princess. Bare feet and arms and the sun on my skin is enough to raise my happiness levels from 0 to 10 in the space of opening my eyes. Hearing the birds singing outside the window and the light filtering through the blinds as I wake is good for my soul.
Throwing off the blanket of winter and feeling myself begin to emerge from a long phase of being cocooned has been happening over the last months. Healing from any injury or illness is a slow process. As I am shedding some layers of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually it seems they are all tied together. No big revelation there, but the process is something to be treasured as well as the outcome. For after all, we are all in the process of becoming. The thing is, how to learn to just stay in the process whatever and wherever it takes me? That being in the moment thing.
The curse of depression is a dreadful sense of isolation and disconnection which comes with it. Some days it seems like a deep dark place that you just want to hide in for ever. Add to that any addiction and the sense of isolation and despair increases. Being grateful is a simple skill in theory and one to practice for the sense of hope it can give.
Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once.
It is a grey old day today. Fog and mist all day and that autumnal dampness that gets under your skin. I took the dog for a walk wearing my winter coat, only its second outing this season. funny to think that this time last year the UK was in the middle of ‘The Big Freeze’ and we were slipping and sliding our way around whilst snow and hoar frosts made the landscape into Narnia under the Snow Queen.
As I get older I appreciate the seasons more. I don’t dread winter any more for its dark nights and mornings. I like the festivals that the seasons bring for the celebrations of light. I like putting on my winter coat and feeling ready for any weather. Watching the leaves dropping from the trees reminds me that December is almost here with family Christmas and celebrations. And then the year turns and we wait for the light to egin to return.
Today I was looking through photos from October when the Missus and I had an escape to Rhodes. Winter is a good time to get out those photos and finally do something with them. I have a project in mind with old family photos to make a scrapbbok for future generations. So many old photos. And then all the images stored on computer, ones I keep meaning to make into albums or frame and put on the walls. So many winter evenings and weekends that could occupy.
This afternoon I am cooking a shepherds pie for dinner with the family. Pottering in the kitchen and creating comfort food, looking forward to seeing everyone together at the table. looking at pohotos, reading my book, catching up on emails. I am very grateful.
Well my blogging has been sadly lacking hasn’t it since September. In fact I just came to a full stop and couldn’t do it. So I let it go for a while. But I’ve missed it, and felt like I’d lost a little piece of me in the process.
Of course feeling a sense of loss was what brought me to a halt. Losing Mum has left a gap in all our lives here. The gap reveals itself in many ways and moments. Mum had been such a big part of our lives, and I had written about her here and shared our journey through the last year of her life. I am so glad i did that. But it was hard to write after she had gone.
Now I imagine she will pop in now and again for tea and a cake just to make sure we are getting along ok, so forgive me if she pops in here too.
I am not going for a post a day for now. It’s too much and I would like to be able to start sharing and writing again without that pressure.
The picture above is from my walk yesterday. It is truly Autumn here now, there is a smoky feel to the air and the trees are losing their leaves. It is good to walk through them whilst they are still crisp and not yet slippy. This is a new season, they go so fast don’t they and I have new ideas to share and a new journey of recovery to begin on.
I love Freecycle. It’s a great way to pass on stuff you don’t need any more or aquire stuff you do. A quick email to the liast and a flood of responses usually means its pretty quick too. Last night I put on several items and most of them have gone today. An Asian gentleman took a swivel office chair. He wasnt keen on the monopod for a video camera, just didnt get why it didnt have 3 legs. His English wasn’t too good and he was sure something had fallen off it. I wanted to say “It’s free, just take it and leave”. He left it. A woman whose face I recognised came and took away a homemade blanket box. We worked out she had worked at the supermarket I use for 12 years, no wonder I knew her face – she was just out of context. Next a squaddie home from Afghanistan and now setting up his first home with two mates. He took a pile of 1970’s cook books as he is learning to cook and make food from scratch, it was fun talking about which books would be good for hime and he took a dinner party menus one for his more pretentious flatmate. A lovely woman with ME and Fybromyailgia took away an over-bed table and a digibox with no remote. We had a great chat about f=dogs as she met Geordie. She has two Rotweilers, a boy of 7 who has always been ‘her baby’ and an eighteen month old girl who has turned the old boy into a complete love smitten older man and protector. She told me how, on her bad days, the dogs come upstairs and keep her company and give her cuddles and it helps her get through. Tonight a set of bedroom furniture that there is just no room for went. I specified they would need a van and 2 strong people. This was 1930’s solid wooden furniture. They came in a small Pugeoet van, a little woman with a supervisors manner and her Dad who liked a chat but couldnt lift due to his arthiritis. Is it me? Luckily sons 1 and 2 have been my muscle all day and they ended up being the muscle to dismantle, carry downstaors and put in the van all the furniture. It took two trips.
As I said, I love Freecycle. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but the concept is awesome in a materialist world and you get some great stories!
Labyrinth at Norwich Cathedral. The path goes round and as you walk it you cam pray or meditate or just be centred in the moment. It is a place of peace and tranquility, a cool refreshment on a baking hot summers day.
Next the towpath alongside the Pontyscyllte Aqueduct in North Wales. It carries the Llangollen canal over the valley of the River Dee. Years ago I was on a narrowboat for a week when we went over the canal, a couple of years ago we walked over along the path. Both were scary and awesome in equal measure.
Below is a path through some gardens near where we live. Roses climb over the trellis. The formality of the gardens and the tidy paths contrast with great sweeps of grasses and generous planting that changes season by season. It is a favourite path for a Sunday walk.
The Cochiti Pueblo are located in north central New Mexico near the city of Albuquerque. One of the more famous Cochiti artists is Helen Cordero. She was born in 1915 in New Mexico. In the late 1950s, she and her cousin, an accomplished potter, began making pottery as an alternative to leather and beadwork. Cordero was never satisfied with her bowls and pitchers, but then her cousin suggested that she try figures instead. In Cordero’s words, it was “like a flower blooming.” Countless tiny birds and animals and eventually, people came to life. Helen Cordero, of Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, created her first storyteller figure when she was 49 years old. She modeled it after her grandfather who told stories about their Native American culture. One of the traditional figurine forms was a seated female figure holding a child, known as the Singing Mother. When Cordero tried her hand at this form, she “kept seeing my grandfather [Santiago Quintana]. That one, he was a really good storyteller, and there was always lots of us grandchildren around him.” When she shaped the first portrait of her paternal grandfather, she used the traditional design but made the figure male and placed more than a realistic number of children on him. She called him Storyteller. Between five and thirty figures cling to her sculptures. Following the tradition begun by Helen Cordero, many other artists in Cochiti Pueblo began to create storyteller figures and developed their own styles. Seferina Ortiz created drummers and animals. Other artists created cowboy or acrobatic figures. The Cochiti Pueblo Indians did not record their stories as we do but passed them orally to their children and grandchildren. Many of the storyteller figures are created with their mouth open and eyes closed as the Native Americans will sing or chant their stories aloud. Native Americans tell stories about creation, how certain plants and animals came to be and stories of legends, history, ceremonies or rituals. Many stories and dances or rituals are ways to honor the earth and nature’s way. Other stories tell about family, love, friendship, hunting, and so on. Some songs are performed to aid the deceased in his journey to the next world. There are reputed to be over 500 songs just for this purpose. Helen Cordero was the first Native American to create storytellers and has sold many of her sculptures. Helen Cordero’s storytellers have been exhibited in museums in Canada and the United States and have won many awards including the Governor’s award in 1982.
This is a wonderful site that teaches you how to make one for yourself New Mexico Storyteller sculptures
Some years ago whilst in Albuquerque I bought three small storytellers. I gave one to Mum and Dad and it was always on their fireplace. Now I have the three on my desk at work. They remind me every day of how important stories are. The life story we create, the ones we tell our children, grandchildren and friends. The way in which we experience the world is made up of the stories we believe about ourselves and other people.
today I was looking at my little storytellers all over again. I had been talking to someone about Mum and her death. I realised it was like giving birth. The story we tell needs telling, sometimes over and over until somehow we make sense of it and understand it. We tell the story in our families and in our heads. If we are lucky we have people who will share the story with us or just let us tell it how we see it without trying to alter it or make it better or make it theirs. When I read again about the storytellers I heard about the songs that are sung to help the dead person go on their journey and I thought of how I sang to her “The Skye Boat Song” when I sat with her when she had gone. And the songs we sing whether hymns or not that mean something. These rituals are so important.
I look at the storytellers I have and see how they are all the grandparents, the people who pass on the traditions. Is that me now?