aimless wonderings


“May you live in interesting times”

– a Chinese curse, that. Apparently.

Anyway – the Imp is doing just that: living in interesting times (well, aren’t we all?). And one of the moments on the horizon is that I’m about to spend the night in a near-empty theatre, writing a 20-minute performance piece, from scratch, for 6 actors I’ve yet to meet, to be performed 24 hours after we wet our pens. Dead excited, but also nervous.  The whole thing goes up on the main stage – and it’s filling up (this ain’t no teeny theatre).

Cor – the unknown – and I don’t mean Rumsfeld’s unknown knowables….

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Beautiful….’cos what could I possibly have to worry about, having read that?!

😉

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened” – Winston Churchill

The solstice is almost upon us! Snow’s sneaking across the land and men sell woolly hats in the street.  I’m waiting on a friend from the US, who’s flying over especially for the Imp’s wintry nuptials, while other family and friends crawl their way through The Weather.

I’m telling all involved to relax, worry not, take it as it comes – which is a joke given the self-inflicted assault on my nerves of the last few weeks. But finally, the calm is coming!

What is anxiety; why do we worry? I’ve been (annoyingly) able to watch my own discalm, disquietude, and have come up with some factors of imp-angst – which is to say, they’re not necessarily anything like yours.

For me, I reckon it’s all about other people – and their reactions to one’s self.

Because a worried “what if, what if, what if, ” by itself is meaningless – it can do no harm: we’re back to “if a wood falls in the forest, does it make a noise?”  What I mean is that the worst case scenarios are usually (I’m ruling out falling off cliffs, here) about performance, acceptance, and other contributors to emotional safety / harm.

This all became clear when I found myself saying, “it doesn’t matter what happens because we’re amongst friends.” I realised that people who love me won’t think less of me if something – anything – goes wrong. Those who would think bad thoughts aren’t my friends – and in the context of my own wedding, well – they shouldn’t be there!

So – I have just seen the first snowflakes through the window. Sinatra’s on the radio (natch) and I urge all elves, gnomes, fellow imps and pixies to hug yourselves, smile at the world and remember you are loved.  Get friends around you and get festive.  Happy celebrations, one and all.

😉

You wonder,  sometimes, just how grown-up you really are.

This happens, in the main, when you stumble, perhaps even fall down; when you quite possibly weren’t looking where you were going and then end up, breath knocked out of you, gasping for air, with shock-hot tears poking at your pride ducts.

And to be fair, how can you find the things that need mending unless you can see the holes?  The real sign of being grown-up, of course, is how you decide to deal with the fall, and with what caused it in the first place.  Do you sit and stamp your heels against the ground, screaming and flinging blame? Do you quietly seethe and vow to win vengeance? Or do you (because these questions must go in threes) take a deep breath, look behind you to see what happened and remind yourself not to do that again?

You never step in the same river twice, so they say, but of course, if you don’t learn from the tough times – if you then don’t grow – then the river’s going to look pretty much the same throughout your life. And that’s possibly secure, but it’s bloody boring. If you reinforce your own prejudices about the world (people are not to be trusted; I’m boring and ugly;  people never understand one another) then you’re only building up impenetrable walls and choosing to make yourself lonely and miserable.  Or boring and lonely and misunderstood and unable to trust anyone. Oh, look – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I really admire people who can bite their tongue; who don’t need to bolster themselves in the eyes of others; who live in the present and don’t worry. But I know that some of those people find it hard to do some of the things I find easy. We’re all different and we all have different qualities: not having some of the good ones is not a failing – but it is a challenge, and after all, what else is life for?

😉

A brief one, you may be relieved to note. I am trying to declutter. Not the flat, but the life…(here she goes…). No, wait!

I decided today only to have 3 things on the To Do list. Any more, and I feel set up to fail. I’ve still only done 1 of them – the tax stuff and the invoicing will be far more appealing tomorrow. And here’s where a key principle comes riding to my defence – Committment!

If there is something you want in your life, everything else (like tax returns, or invoicing, when you know you’re going to spin those jobs out for hours) has to come lower down the line, perhaps to the wire, the last moment, when you’ll do them really fast.

Posting on a blog, of course, that’s different…;-)

Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk

– Carl Jung

The Imp spent some interesting time doing things she didn’t like this summer. And as a (chronologically) grown-up creature, I’m not so used to that. I’d forgotten that Doing  / Wearing Things (from haircuts to buckle shoes and long socks) That You Don’t Like was a major feature of my childhood.

We adults (by which I mean probably western, and therefore relatively ridiculously affluent) have a great degree of autonomy over our own lives. That’s especially so if you’re dependent-lite (no kids) and obligation-wary (renting, cash- not debt-led) et cetera et cetera. Indeed, yay and verily, this Imp has been known quietly to compare herself with the lotus-eaters: indolent, addicted and apathetic, lounging in luxury’s lap. Here’s some Homer (Odyssey IX) to tell you something about Lotus Eaters (translated by Samuel Butler):

I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches.

Or as Nick Cave’s version put it, “Sapped and stupid / I lie upon the stones and I swoons”….

But away from this indulgence and back we go, to the issue of the autonomy of grown-ups (western and well-to-do). If you’re in such a fortunate position, you live pretty darn near the top of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Need”. Think of a triangle. At the base are the most essential things you need to survive; as the triangle narrows, the needs become less essential to survival and more about personal growth and satisfaction:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

So, as an adult, once our survival needs (food, shelter, water and sex) are met, we strive to fulfil other needs, such as safety (financial, personal, health), then social needs such as friendship, support, a family, intimacy. When social needs are not met, depression can set in, leading to self-neglect, where the lower needs (comfort and survival) are threatened. And top o’ the pile are the self-actualisation needs (“I want to be a train driver”) and peak experiences – spiritual, mystical, and other such insight-giving moments of the life-changing variety.

Doing things you don’t want to do is not good for many reasons – the potentially negative impact on self-esteem being key. What I mean by this is that if an adult feels that they are not in control of their own experiences over a significant period of time, then they can be reduced in their own mind to the status of a child  – powerlessness – by whatever circumstances are making them endure the bad experience (unemployment; a bullying partner; manipulative friends etc).

But of course, an adult does have free will and self-determination. There is always (in the Imp view of the world) choice, there are always alternatives. There might not be a golden ticket out the door, but there’s always another way. I hear philosophers screaming (but if I can’t see them, are they real?). But bear with me: even if it’s only changing your perspective, surely if that act changes your experience, then it is an alternative (and one that is self-determined)?

So, does it follow that Doing What You Don’t Want to Do can actually be a thing that strengthens you – aiding self-actualisation? Adversity is – I would argue – surely necessary if we’re to rise to the challenge of being proper adults (not just chronological ones)?

What’s important is that we see the tests and accept them – that we don’t just peep at them and roll over, weeping. We need to address the things that challenge us – how else can we grow?  OK, it might not be a ten-day shamanic ritual of tiger-hunting, but swallowing pride, finding the positive, or seeking a better way (of action or perception) are all the kinds of behaviours we expect from grown-ups; not running away, refusing, shutting the mind and throwing our weetabix against the wall.

It’s good, this grown-up thing – after all that hard work in getting here and putting up with being a child, don’t miss out on all it has to offer!

😉

Galavanting is about to commence – the play wot I’m in goes a-touring soon, and the play wot I wrote gets a small outing in the midst of it all. The house wot I inhabit is looking forwards to a holiday from me, and the peeps wot I know both get respite and face-time (depending on the disguises wot they use to hide).

The gutting thing is that artsy spring has sprung in my town and festivals galore are sprouting while I’m away. I’m listening to new music from Sheelanagig (clarinetty, eastern European-style, febrile mania – “gypsy jazz” doesn’t do it justice) and saxophonist James Morton and it reminds me I’m going to miss a whole load of new writing and music stuff.

….Now, I know full well that if I wasn’t going to be away, I’d try to go but worry a tad about the prices and that might put me off doing as much as I would like. But I’d seek out the freebies and try (and fail) to press-gang chums into coming out to play, into being adventurous. Then I’d go on me impling tod anyway…!

But I wouldn’t always appreciate DOING it as much as I MISS it.  Isn’t that funny? Why is the “having” less weighty (if it’s a mediocre experience), less fulsome  than the “missing” of the same item? Why does (even small, petty) loss, subtraction give us a stronger feeling than presence, than experience?

Anyone know? Anyone have a view?

Anyway, like I say, I’ll be away. If no comments appear here, it’s ‘cos I can’t approve them – but don’t let that stop you! I’ll be back as soon as I can. Meantime, go and luxuriate in whatever you think you would miss if you couldn’t have it!

😉

It is cold today – such a contrast from the day before yesterday.

Then, I climbed a hill, running hard. I came to the buttercup field – which I had been waiting for – and was suddenly clasped inside a snow-storm of floating catkin seeds. They were in every look, sailing through a breeze tunnel, spreading and flying, finding fertile nests in which to rest. The birds were gentle, and the grass outdoing itself with its green. The sky was bursting with pride at its own blue calibre and the earth banks swelled as if to say,  “See? We are here, always here, still here; look at this.” I daren’t breathe. How magical.

Moments, these moments, feel Grail-like; they are the alkahest, the philosopher’s stone in my life.  You can only ever capture their flavour in your mind – that is their ineffable nature. But even those pale versions can work magic on your soul on the dreariest day. Un-stopper the memory with care, with respect, and breathe in gently, at times of need.

Have you forgetten what magic bottles lie on the shelves of your mind?

Next Page »