Blocked

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I feel overwhelmed. Stuck. Blocked. Frustrated. Can’t move forward. Can’t move back. Can’t move sideways. Haven’t been writing, haven’t been to the gym, the “to do” list just keeps on getting longer.

Know that feeling?

I live in a spacious house. All by myself. Large rooms- back deck and front porch; wide, long room downstairs; gracious loungeroom and a huge, sunny family room + kitchen. When my co-housing partner lives here, there will be the grand total of two of us

scary, isn't it?

scary, isn’t it?

But. I can’t settle my work space. Right now I’m camped in the dining room (yes, there’s a dining room as well) – computers set up on the dining table, papers strewn everywhere, books stacked…Angie, my co-housemate suggests the second bedroom is my space and some stuff is in there-  left over clothes of mine that don’t fit in my bedroom, a largeish table, full boxes and plastic crates, all my paperwork, stationery…Downstairs is stuffed with furniture- a desk, a workbench, cupboards, bookshelves, books and books and books, filing cabinets, plastic crates full of stuff belonging to both of us, all my parents’ family photos waiting to be sorted, my notes from courses I have run, old letters (of course!), boxes of Angie’s…all waiting to be sorted. There’s no garage, so downstairs is where it’s all at. My stuff, and it is stuff, is scattered in three places. No wonder I keep losing things.

Where do I settle my study? upstairs? second bedroom? downstairs? the dining room? turn the loungeroom into a work space? Where do we put guests?

questions,

questions,

I haven’t mentioned the garden. You remember the garden? One of our aims is to be as self sufficient as possible, so the garden is a top priority. Well, here I am, eighteen months later, and I’ve only been playing around the edges. Where will I create the beds? How will I make them? Where do I start? Treated pine edging or colorbond or?  If I put a tree there, will it stop the sun?  Questions, uncertainty, indecision… and I’m back where I started from, feeling stuck.

By now, you’re probably feeling irritated with me and want to tell me to “stop carrying on , just get on with it!” I’m irritated with me!

However. And there is usually an however. I have watched people talking about how they feel blocked and I have seen that they have solutions. I’ve watched them reject any options or possibilities. For some reason they didn’t want to move forward.

What does this tell me now? That I am refusing solutions? Choosing to stay stuck? Why do I keep rejecting any possible solutions?  What am I frightened of?

This is a life lesson, of course. It’s not just in our homes or gardens we get stuck. How many times have you been at a point where you have felt powerless, you can’t make a choice and  your life’s been  in a holding pattern?

And isn’t it an uncomfortable place to be? No energy, restless, I take to prowling about, unable to settle anywhere. Nothing gets done.

What was I told once? It doesn’t matter where you start, you’ll always get to where you need. Here and now, it doesn’t matter what choice I make. All that matters is to start. It’s my old friend, fear- the fear of making a mistake. What did I learn, many years ago, from Susan Jeffers? To “feel the fear, and do it anyway”. What do I have to lose?

a Spring bouquet to cheer me up.

a Spring bouquet to cheer me up.

P.S. If you have an idea about the garden or the house, I’d love to hear it. Think outside the square!

 

 

 

 

Railroaded and Blended: Thirstless in a Bloodthirsty World, Sober in a Laughless One

I have long worried about the amount of violence to which children are routinely exposed. I choose to never watch either violent or horror movies. My spirit doesn’t need them and they can certainly prey on my mind. Judy’s post speaks from the heart.

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

Railroaded and Blended: Thirstless in a Bloodthirsty World, Sober in a Laughless One

Every day, our children are mesmerized by computer games where they hunt down and kill. TV shows go from violent to horrific—all echoing a world made increasingly more warlike as the war games of children grown into the war games of politicians and financiers who seek political and financial gain by first vilifying and then “going after” their enemies.

It is not my dreams, but rather my waking world that’s tortured by the bloodthirst of our world. At night, in my bed before sleeping, I fear for my own breathing and have to go outside for the comfort of cool night moving air. That scene from “The Bridge” where a child is buried alive with water slowly filling his crypt—will not go away. I am stuffed to strangling with earth’s cruelty.

My dreams remain my own, so…

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Garden Diary

Yet again, I’m forced to acknowledge that I can’t do everything. Does this mean that yet again I need to let go some things I want to do?

One of my highest priorities is to live simply and sustainably. This includes having a beautiful and productive garden. Gardening is always one of my highest priorities. It grounds and renews me and brings me quiet joy.

a sad plant

a sad plant

A move to a new home and environment? Start the garden! But here I am, more than a year later and the garden is almost untouched . The weeds are still there, old plants cry out for pruning, there’s lots of potting to do, plants I bought last week are languishing, unplanted. And there’s a whole new garden to develop.

Whenever I’m outside I end up feeling disheartened, overwhelmed and frustrated.

What can I do?  I can judge myself, become highly critical and end up with no gardening done feeling thoroughly miserable. Or, I can choose to practise self-acceptance and self-compassion with no judgement.  To do this I must first accept that I cannot do the impossible; to start this garden from where it is now, is just too big a task for me. So I stop thinking I will.

So here’s what I shall do: I have settled on a plan, after much deliberation; we shall create no-dig gardens, or lasagne gardening; growing on top of the ground by building up layers. This soil is too hard and too degraded to attempt to dig. And to begin with, we shall have beds where there is now lawn, leaving some lawn around each bed.

the beginnings at Tarbuck

the beginnings at Tarbuck

 

I can’t do this. I don’t even make an attempt. It’s too big for me, even if I practise doing it “a bucket at a time. ”

So this week I shall find a gardener who will plant fruit trees and set up the garden beds. I have two sources to go to for information. I’ll ask my same sources if they know where I can buy old railway sleepers for my garden edges. If I can’t get any, then I shall order  treated pine. I will talk to the garden suppliers to decide if I will order garden soil and compost at the same time. That will depend on whether I can begin to move it myself, slowly, “a bucket at a time”,  to build up the beds. I need the beds started to get me over the first hurdle. Once the beds are in place and some initial layering is done, I’m going to try hay bale gardening. That way, I can start growing some vegetables before the beds are set up fully- I do know that it will take me time to set

a new bed

a new bed

them up. And as the bales break down they will become part of the process.

You see, this will be my second spring here and still I won’t have sweet peas, poppies, cornflowers, delphiniums, forget-me-nots, lupins, irises, daffodils, jonquils, anemones and all the other joys of a spring garden.  For a second year we may not have the pleasure and sheer delight of extravagantly beautiful, fragrant roses; fruit trees take several years to bear fruit. I want to go out to my garden and pick that night’s dinner. For too many years I have not had the things I consider to be essential  I don’t have  years to wait. Housman talked of having only fifty years left to see the cherry hung with snow. I sure don’t have fifty years.

bluebells in Spring at Tarbuck

bluebells in Spring at Tarbuck

What have I learnt? To accept, yet again, that I am not superwoman and I can’t do everything. That I am prone to self-judgement and am still learning to be kind to myself. That I remain a work in progress. That, surprise, surprise, I’m still not perfect.

More prosaically, I realize that I have needed to live here for a time before I could clarify what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.  And that plans take time to develop. Patience! There will be enough time! If I live each moment fully, that moment will be enough. When the flowers are blooming, Kathryn, remember to appreciate them. Drink in their beauty, share them, fill your house with them. And always, keep your hands in the earth. It’s the Amish who say that we are closest to God when we have our hands in the soil.

a Spring bouquet

a Spring bouquet

By the dots.

Daily Prompt: We all have strange relationships with punctuation- do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without?

What are my punctuation quirks?

I used to work in an inner-city, multicultural suburb and loved it. One of my favourite shop signs was outside the Greek butcher’s (there was only one Greek butcher),  advertising “lambs’ legs”. It was one of my favourites because it showed so clearly the subtleties of our language. I couldn’t buy, however. A leg of lamb is impersonal, several steps away from being a living creature, or in this case, a wriggling and cute bundle of fluff. A lamb’s leg, belongs to that wriggling bundle. Consider the difference between chicken drumsticks and a chicken’s drumstick. I love language! It’s so clever.

Apostrophes!!!! and exclamation marks.

Apostrophes!!!! and exclamation marks.

While I’m on apostrophes, I confess now that I may one day turn into that eccentric woman who goes around with a large, red, permanent marker correcting apostrophes on public signs. Here in Australia it has become almost the accepted practice that if there is an “s” on the end then it has an apostrophe. No, no, no! and again, no!! You can probably tell it more than irritates me, I can become obsessed about it. I think I’ll buy that permanent marker today and get started.

You may have guessed already that one of my weaknesses is for exclamation marks. Yes, I have read, is it Elmore Leonard’s criticism of their use? I flicked that article to my niece, but found myself unable to stop myself from using these little marks in my accompanying email. (My niece uses them too, so there!)

In another life, very long ago, I taught Primary school and every day included a grammar lesson. I hope those children have never been guilty of an apostrophe whenever they felt like it, or a comma put anywhere. Last time I worked in a school I had to point out to someone ( he had authority and could get it changed) the use of a comma in a simple sentence; this on a notice that was to be placed all around the school. How could we as educators, publish a grammatical mistake? The person concerned refused to change it and there was a limit to how far I could push it.  She insisted that there was a verb and a phrase, therefore there must be a comma. So, nowadays we teach them the ungrammatical. The fact that language is meaning and that our thinking can never be precise if we can’t express ourselves accurately causes me great concern. Bertrand Russell, years ago, feared we were becoming a civilization of barbarians with the tools of technology. The loss of sophisticated language is part of that.

I confess: I need to re-visit the use of colons and semi-colons and I promise I will.

I do recommend Jane Strauss and her Blue Grammar Book.

I wonder what your quirks are? What makes you want a large, red, permanent marker? (Do I put commas between each of those adjectives? Does quirks have an apostrophe?…Only joking!)

 

 

 

 

A Pen and some paper

Daily prompt: Writing space.

Where do you produce your best writing-  at your desk, on your phone, at a noisy café?

Essential take with me equipment.

Essential take with me equipment.

Writing…If I could write while I’m driving or while I’m walking or when I’m gardening…or sometimes when I’m listening to the radio – to an interview or discussion,  a report or an in depth study…or sometimes when I’m talking with a friend… That’s when the ideas come and I find myself writing in my head. That’s when I need to grab them. So I’ve bought a digital recorder but it’s more complicated than turn it on, press a button and “we’re on air’ although I’m getting to be  proficient with it. ( Note to myself: practice using the recorder.)  (Second note to myself: always carry a notebook! When the ideas come, stop whatever I’m doing and write it down, doesn’t matter if it gets dirt from the garden.)

Doing something else seems to release the mind. Maybe my writing process will become something like…walking, laptop in backpack…sudden inspiration…stop…sit at side of road…write feverishly…continue walking…

Most of my writing process tends to take place at the table where the computers are set up. Although you could say I’m “spoilt for choice.” The dining room is my temporary study. It feels good and is spacious. Then I have the very large, open sunroom and kitchen, with another large farmhouse table and not one, but two capacious sofas. There’s the lounge room, the roomy back and front decks, complete with tables and chairs… the river bank is not too far away: tables, green grass just perfect for a blanket and a few pillows, wandering ducks, water hens…

Truly, I took this photo two minutes ago!

Truly, I took this photo two minutes ago!

This is how my day tends to go: get up and make coffee, curl up on a sofa in the sun with notebook and pen and write for at least half an hour, not stopping, however it comes. Then breakfast, some pottering, get dressed or not and to the computer. If it’s Daily Prompt, look at the day’s prompt…( don’t check too many emails!!!!)  If I’m already working on something, read it, play with it…I’ll often print something if I want to edit and I usually take that somewhere else. If I want to start something new, I’ll take it to the other table and handwrite the ideas. It’s as if each stage needs a different place. Some of that’s physical. My computer table (that is , the dining room table) has a clutter of equipment: laptop; wonderful, ergonomic keyboard and large screen monitor; there’s always pieces of paper, notebooks, post-its, textas, pens, pencils, maybe a computer manual; there’s not much space for writing with a pen and paper. (Thanks to my generous benefactor for the setup.)  Right now it also has a cat. (How do you teach them not to sit on the keyboard?)

Regular writing is a new process for me. In the past it’s always been an “I’m going to…”. Finally, at last, I have started!  I’m learning what works and how I work. As I’ve been writing this post I’ve become aware of how much more I could do and how much more disciplined I could be. Thinking about how I write has helped me clarify what does work for me. From this daily prompt I know exactly what I now need to focus on. More output! More words on paper, or screen, or whatever. More time spent just writing. Time to get going!

 

 

 

The unique flavour of me

Daily Prompt: A local ice cream parlour invites you to create a new wacky flavor. It needs to channel the very essence of your personality. What’s in it?

My essence?

My essence?

Now that’s a challenge! How do I see myself? What are my characteristics? One day I will have a portrait of myself on this blog that I find adequate, but so far I haven’t managed that, and now I’m asked to create a flavour that is the very essence of my personality??  Come on! And turn it into edible ingredients?? Maybe I’ll go with intangibles and make a fantasy ice cream filled with talking and laughter; books and reading; quiet introspection. Or a handful of roses, a drop of river water, a smidgeon of moonshine…

There are no ice cream parlours around here. Ice cream in cartons from the supermarket, yes; ice creams and splices and other sorts on sticks, yes; but no parlours. I wouldn’t call them ice cream parlours either and I’m not sure what I would call them. And yes, I know I’m  avoiding getting around to defining the very essence of my personality. Is it modesty that makes defining myself a challenge? Or my culture that says I mustn’t skite or act conceited? Or is it because we become so defined by what we do, rather than who we are?

So, what would I include?

I do love to sit around talking with my friends, but I also love quietness and peace; in spite of the anxiety and stress of many years, by nature I’m happy and sunny, summer rather than winter; I’m intelligent and interested in ideas, bored by the superficial; not very practical and sometimes lack common sense; often vague, can be thoughtless and impulsive…An ideas person rather than a doer.

How will I turn my essence into ice cream? It needs to be made with cream because past times at my parents included home-made pies and rich, thick, yellow cream, collected from my uncle’s farm, just a few miles away. The cream can represent both this countryside which is imprinted deep into my very bones and the sense of belonginess from those times.

What else? Apricots for sunniness, walnuts for intelligence, figs- sensitive and easily bruised…and what can represent that ability I have to keep going, no matter what, to endure? SALT! The mineral that traditionally has been used to preserve. Then some smarties for a strong dash of fun.

Delicious!

Delicious!

Thinking about ice cream has brought back memories of childhood. I remember my parents buying their very first refrigerator and before that, the ice man  making deliveries and the big block of ice sitting in the ice chest. Imagine trying to freeze anything, with only an ice chest in an Australian summer?  Anything frozen was almost impossible. My mother used to make ice cream occasionally, beating the semi-frozen mixture by hand. Bought ice cream was a rare and special treat, a luxury. I remember an ice cream cake for someone’s birthday,  On special occasions we might be treated to an ice cream in a cone  and at Sunday school picnics the afternoon would see the thick canvas barrel, filled with dry ice, brought out and the handing  around of ice creams in little cardboard buckets with wooden scoops.

Ice cream tasted better then. Maybe I did too,

 

 

 

Regrets or Letting go.

Writing101. Daily Prompt: Groundhog Day. If you could relive the past week, would you? Would you change anything?

 

I read this and hear Frank Sinatra singing “Regrets, I’ve had a few…”

but I also hear Edith Piaf “Je no regretted rien…”   

Would I want to relive the week? No, but I do want to learn from it.

These two singers represent  two extremes of looking back. My mind turned to regret. It’s too easy to look back with regret and from there to judge ourselves harshly. It’s a long way from self acceptance.

But how do we learn if we don’t look back on the past? And how do we do that if we don’t examine the past critically? I know from working in schools how important it is that children learn to accept responsibility for their actions and to accept responsibility for the consequences. It seems to me that it’s crucial to distinguish between regret and accepting responsibility, learning from our actions and moving on.

I’m in the fortunate position of not working full-time and so am in the process of changing old patterns and making choices in this new set of circumstances.

Now, I have clear priorities and I know the things that matter to me. Do I always do these things? Do my days fit my imagined ideal? No, of course not. I’m human and therefore I am not perfect.

I'm really good at making lists.

I’m really good at making lists.

In the last twelve months I’ve spent a lot of time recovering and settling, reflecting and dreaming, making lists and not doing what’s on them,…and yes, I’ve fallen into times     of self  – criticism,those moments of “I should have…” One of the lessons I keep on learning is to trust and accept myself, whatever state I’m in, to get rid of judgement.  I don’t find that easy. Perhaps it’s another human paradox that we must balance acceptance with change, that is, changing the habits and patterns that no longer serve us.

I’m learning that if I leave exercising until late in the day, I probably won’t do it. I’m trying things out- when’s the best time to write? How do I juggle the cleaning, the cooking…all the demands that maintain one’s life? How do I manage what must be done with what I most want to do?

The best way for me to discover what works best is to look over the past week and reflect on it. When did I do the most significant things? What worked? When did time slip away from me? Benjamin Franklin used to start the day with the question “What good can I do today?” and end it with “What good have I done today?”

Let the day go.

Let the day go.

My gut feel is that as I spend time in the evening being grateful, then the shape of the days will come.

Relive the week? Relive the past? No thank you! But reflect on it? Yes. Learn from it? Yes.

And never give up, never give up, never give up.

Rick Hanson has great things to say about regret and gratitude.

I’d really like to know what you think.