28.2.18 Darth watching the snow (his new favourite thing)
While the country disappears under snow, I'm also disappearing under more work than I can cope with. Bimblings will be back in the next day or two when I've managed to crawl my way out again.
26.2.18 The week's first snowfall
It's been a strange day of muttered portents and grumbled warnings. The first snow flurries fell more like ash than snow, settling in dry clumps and sticking to coats and eyelashes. Most folk are expecting a burying later this week and the same conversation was being played out everywhere I went, all eyes dark and pointed skywards.
"I heard that..." and, "the forecast said..." I edged in and out of it as I moved about my day. Community centre, local shop, school playground. The same words delivered gravely from different, chapped faces, all buttoned up to the nines; the same barked dismissals from those determined to stand apart. "What a fuss" and, "it'll all come to nothing, just you mind," back and forth.
The only thing anyone seemed able to agree on was that it was damn cold, and in that, in the end, there was at least some peace.
25.2.18 Last of the Valentine's flowers
I sat for a long while today, very still in the silence trying to get my head together, and when thoughts finally stopped, I realised I could hear something. It was the dry crackle of a daffodil bud in its vase slowly plumping itself to open, pushing against its paper casing to split it, ready to unfurl. Minutes would go by and then I'd hear it again, the faintest rustle, little by little, push by push, until it grew still again, spent. I could almost feel its eagerness, how much is wrapped up in each bud, how tight and full they must feel, and I thought, I know that feeling.
I can now say I've been so quiet, I've heard a daffodil undress.
I needed yesterday's photo today and today's photo yesterday. Isn't that funny.
24.2.18 Supermarket daffs
Make peace. You have to make peace. I've been saying this to myself all day today. Peace isn't going to be handed to me whole and solid, a brand new house to step into and bury myself in forever more. I'm going to have to make it around me and even then, it will be something fragile. I will have to care for it and renew it, every day, over and over, patching it up and smoothing it out. I believe that good things are more likely to come from a place of peace. I believe it is worth the work.
I thought I might as well make a start today, all over again, and so I tried to make my peace wherever I could. Whenever I could feel myself start to battle, in aggression or in defeat, whenever I started to make war with myself or my day, I tried to make something peaceful happen instead. I let myself rest when I needed to. I made good food and ate it very slowly. I watched the sun on the moss on next door's garage roof. I said "that's enough of that for today" when things stopped working and let myself change paths. I was a peacekeeper and a diplomat and the kind of person who tells themselves good stories - the kind that heals.
It felt like the opposite of giving up. In fact, it was the closest thing to victory I've felt in a long, long while.
23.2.18 Doxey Marshes
No words today, but pictures aplenty. I made it up the footpath to the edge of the marshes just as the afternoon sun found its perfect height. I brought tea in my thermos mug and got my legs to the bridge to hang, bold, over the water.
This is my soul's place: the place I go to meet myself and remember who I am.
22.2.18 Night tree
I've been thinking about gentleness today. I thought about it as I rested, and again as I scootered three streets home in the dark with my son quiet by my side. About how hard it is to be truly gentle, and how life seems determined, always, to push us into sharpness. Even usually kind natures seem to carry ready thorns, pushed inwards in self-punishment, or poised to prickle out in fear, in anger, in defensiveness. How rare it is to find someone who is gentle through and through, in and out; gentle both to others and themselves, gentle in both their thoughts and in their reactions. How can gentleness be that difficult? It feels like it should be such an easy thing.
It is my greatest sorrow that life's hard times seem to sharpen us, making us all edges and hard lines. I don't blame us for that, not one bit, but I see it and I wish it wasn't so.
I see it in myself, time and time again. That instinct to clench and harden and close off every time something goes awry. I feel it happen, and the more things go wrong, the more tempting it is to revert to it: to bitterness, to anger. For me it all happens quietly, well hidden, and is pointed in at myself more than anything. For all my gentleness, even for someone who never says a harsh word aloud, I am still so full of harshness some days. When I am threatened, I feel the spines grow and my walls come up and it is all so rigid, all hardness and fight and defence.
I want so much to have a gentle heart. A truly gentle heart that doesn't carry hidden daggers pointed inside or out. I guess I'm learning the truth: that although we think of gentleness as an absence of aggression, perhaps it is actually the biggest fight of all. To harden, to sharpen: that's the easy road. But to soften, to choose always to melt into gentler thoughts, gentler acts, gentler living, while not losing sight of yourself, while remaining something solid and whole and healthy in the middle. That's what takes a warrior's strength, isn't it? That's what takes the deepest resolve. And I so want to be that brave. I so want to be that strong.
I didn't manage it today. Over and over, I shall just have to keep trying. Over and over to my heart, I shall say: "be soft, be soft, be soft."
21.2.18 Embroidery progress
I slowly seem to have found myself in a very boring crisis this week. My crises are never particularly interesting if I'm honest. Less dramatic plot twists and more just me failing to do embarrassingly basic things. Ever so often now, I seem to slip a little physically like this, so it's nothing new and nothing to be especially worried about, at least not yet. It's the nature of lifelong illness. Some months and years you win, and some you lose.
When something changes in my life, I'm always surprised and amused by my instant need to make it a big deal. There is this feeling I should issue a statement: to myself, to others. I should immediately proclaim what is happening and what it all means. I should define it neatly, claiming this new state as my territory now. Hi, new thing, I am you now. Look world, look, I'm this now.
I'm not sure what I think it will achieve, but the risk to me is that suddenly everything becomes filtered through its lens. It's like I've cast myself in this particular role and now everything has to fit. I'm not just making a sandwich, I'm desperately trying to make a sandwich because my body is failing. I'm not just resting, I am confined to bed because that's my life now. If I'm struggling, then obviously everything must be a struggle now, mustn't it? Else it doesn't make sense.
No wonder everything seems so bleak. I spend all day playing a disaster movie in my head.
It's a habit I'm trying to break, this catastrophising when things don't go to plan or I don't feel well. Truth is, I don't actually know everything that's happening right now. That's going to take some wait and see and some time to see the bigger picture. I'll have a clearer idea in a week, a month. Hell, even tomorrow might bring something new. I don't need to start writing the chapter heading for my biography right now.
And although my days involve some very hard things at the moment, they're not all bad. Or at least, they don't need to be, if I can let go a little and give some other things chance to share the stage.
To help break the cycle, when I realise I'm falling into that state of prophesying doom on every corner and turning everything into a new scene in my disaster movie, I've started to make myself do something mundane and undramatic. I make myself stop struggling. I stop doing all the things that might help prove what I'm up against, all the things that best show me against the odds, and instead do something really dull and unimpressive instead.
Today I did some embroidery. It turns out it's very hard to be dramatic when you're satin-stitching an acorn. It made me laugh at myself and feel better.
To tomorrow then, hey. Who knows what it will bring.
20.2.18 Origami tree
My mum handed me the flat envelope with a twinkle in her eye.
"Here, we bought you a tree."
It unfolded like magic. All day I've smiled and made it grow, over and over. I'm going to sleep with it under my pillow tonight and see if I can dream my way into a paper forest.
19.2.18 Garden wall
There are days when I can't help but feel such envy. Not for a busy life, but for a wide one. I envy lives that can roam. You'd think someone who has always found movement difficult would have evolved to be a sedentary, restful creature, happy to circle the nest, but I haven't. I'm a wanderer, all the way through.
My range on foot at the moment is about 10 metres. It's much less than it used to be. My feet drag and must be pulled along one at a time and it is agonisingly slow, to experience and to watch, but I get there in the end. I spend all day testing the edges of my tether just in case it has stretched a little. Walk and rest, walk and rest. I do it over and over until I've filled a day. My limit stretches to fill my small house and, with some bracing, it gets me out into my tiny, paved garden, too. I aim for at least one trip out there each day. I had it adapted last year and so the length of it now runs with sitting places and handholds. I climb it, horizontally.
Inside of myself, I am rarely still, filled with an energy that doesn't know what to do with itself. There is such a mismatch between my body and my intent. If I could unhook my body from my will, I would cover leagues within minutes, but I can't, and so all the energy has to find another way out.
It manifests these days as a kind of quiet intensity. I think and feel the equivalent of long, bracing walks. My hands type it out or try and spin it into something beautiful, although I have to do that slowly too. It comes out in looking most of all. My gaze has intensified as my body has slowed. Now, I notice everything and I am hungry for everything: hungry to experience every detail I can. And I do. I make sure I don't overlook a thing. If 10 metres is my limit, I will know it better than anyone else on this earth.
There are days, like today, when I watch the world go about its activities and I burn with longing. "Oh all the things they must see!" I think.
But even now a quiet voice inside of me can't help but whisper back, in challenge, in defiance:
"Ah, but Jo. Think of all the things they must miss."