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?

😉

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L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.”

(Man is born free, but everywhere, he is in chains) – Rousseau

Always skin-shedding – chain-shedding, we worrying people. But….

No sooner do you pat your own back for getting rid of some self-limiting rubbish (you know, like a salary, or feeling you ought to be nice), than you find you’re saddled with another heavy yoke (usually of your own devising) that you’d never even noticed before (like wanting to look acceptable, you know: living free of pustulating sores, for example).

Ok, ok, so I have salted it up a bit.  But pause a second. When you kicked a bad habit, you freed yourself. When you deliberately lost weight, or learnt a new skill, you freed yourself. When you accepted you got it wrong, you freed yourself. When you did something that scared you shitless – you freed yourself. Every time, you changed. You became something additional to what you’d been before.

It would have been very weird, however, if you then said, “Right, that’s it! I’m done! I’m perfect now!” and didn’t allow yourself to make any further changes; stopped yourself spotting any further “chains” or from doing anything about them.

And perhaps that is the nature of life. Perhaps it’s even a defining quality of life? That once you stop unchaining yourself every day, you may as well be dead? Because in all other senses – morally, spiritually, intellectually – you are dead once you stop changing?

I thought this up – to start with – when I spotted that I chain myself to this computer rather too much. It hypnotises me into not leaving it, into not doing all the things I should……

😉

Only good girls keep diaries. Bad girls don’t have time.”

– Talullah Bankhead

How terrible that I have been AWOL for so long. Was it Oscar-fever? Snow-blindness? Work-fatigue? Nay, nay and thrice nonny-no. I have no excuse at all, save a lack of inspiration. Not one muse breathed into me; not one geni did me drench with its deep light. And has today been any different? Today, in part, appears to have fallen down the plughole, like the baby of the song. “Whatever will the neighbours think?”

Of course, being an Imp, I am not over concerned at this apparent lack of ertia. For why? Because away from this page, there’s a world apart, of course!

It’s like diary-reading: those secreting pages (if truly written for the writer’s eye only) show only the pulse of a thought moving through the synapse. It is momentary, a flare in the night sky – not at all a landscape painting  that captures a lasting essence. No, blog posts, on the whole, give the car-passenger’s view of the world: passing moments only.

So while you might not know it, one of us has been  daydreaming or sleeping for most of this journey. But I’m glad we’re awake just now.

😉

It’s been a week since a decent posting. You might say far longer! There has been much whirling in the imp (so-called) mind and too much, at times, to filter effectively. There have been peeps coming and going off the world stage (my world, your world, local or global) – babies born, deaths of the young and old; there have been ailments and arguments, beginnings and completions.

So in this wee contemplation of what might or might not be on my mind, I remembered Jacques in As You Like It, and his ‘seven ages of man’ speech, which, to save your googling fingers, I’ll paste at the end of the posting.

And I realised that Shakespeare is saying only what I keep citing (ad nauseam; I apologise) from Bill Hicks. For Hicks’s ‘it’s only a ride’, see WS’s “all the world’s a stage/and all the men and women merely players.”

Both wise commentaries (overtly or by implication) draw attention to the various parts we play in our lives; different parts with different people, at different times and in different places. I’m not always aware of the parts I am playing until I catch sight of myself, or perhaps spot behaviour I dislike in someone else and realise I am just as guilty of it. What a foul, gut-curling moment that can be. Not only are you seeing your own weakness, but hey, let’s throw some near-as-damn-it hypocrisy into the mix for good measure.

I had the odd, uncanny experience of watching the baby-toddler-child Imp on ’70s technicolor celluloid recently, which added “am I that person still?” / philosopher’s axe wonderings to the uncanny sensation of watching oneself that you get at any point in time. Am I right in thinking that very few of us truly understand how others perceive us? Are you still surprised when you hear a recording of your voice? Do you look at photos and, more often than not, wince at the terrible non-likeness you see? The camera must have caught you as you are just one per cent of the time, right?

Is it at all different for actors, TV presenters, people who are used to their own image, do you think? Do they alter their perception of how others see them because they join the ranks of Others when they watch themselves? Do they find themselves behaving a tiny bit differently as a result? Is it unhealthy to be so self-conscious? To be so eye-led, in fact, by anything (particularly oneself!), instead of being led by consideration of other things: the planet, your family, the job well done etc etc?

Those questions might, to a degree, answer themselves, but I will push: is there in fact gain to be had from that kid of self-knowing (external, not internal)? Can it make you better at all? Perhaps NLP coaches and assertiveness trainers would say yes?

Basta. Time for some bard.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. …I guess I could be really pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.

Those are the last words in American Beauty, spoken by Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey. If you’ve not seen it, I thoroughly recommend it (screenplay by Alan Ball – he of Six Feet Under – and a truly fantastic score by Thomas Newman).

I’m holding up these lines for a couple of reasons. This is one of my favourite films, and by being on telly last night, it reminded me how great I think it is. But it particularly chimes deep for me in the context of this blog, where we’ve spoken a lot about time, about flow, about life’s transitory nature.

And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.

This is repetition for any regular readers, but Walter Pater (who taught Oscar WIlde at Oxford) urged us to live life as though we “burn with a hard, gem-like flame”. He was advocating a zen approach; to live in the moment, not the future or past. He lost his reputation as a result; it ruined his life because his enemies chose to read his words as an unholy encouragement to the aesthetes, the hedonists (Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray demonstrates the Victorian fear of  that kind of hedonism). Burnham – after death – talks about perceiving the world just like that. And in a related imping theme, of being greatful for “every single moment” of his life – stupid and little though he says it is.

‘Cos we are just the sum of our moments, those split-second choices, and each is equally valuable (we do not have to be linear!). Sartre and that lot, especially Kierkegaard (the existentialist posse) said that man (I suspect they mean women, too) can only be known  / defined by his actions – not his thoughts. That to be of merit, you have to act, deliver impact, turn the thought into deed. I’m not sure I always agree: to be defined solely by externalities?

Anyway, on that wee note of deliberation, please go and have a wild, action or thought-filled weekend, whichever takes your fancy. And enjoy every moment.

7a.jpgOnce upon a time, a youthful 35-year old Tricky and quite Little Imp met a 7-year old Impling. The Impling was full of fun and life and they had a lot of fun together. “Hmm,” thought the Imp. “I am five times this Impling’s age. I have lived that seven years five times over!” The Imp remembered all the way back to when it was seven years old, thought that it didn’t seem all that long ago, and wondered at how Time had packed so many seven-year bundles into the Imp’s life without her really noticing.

Then, without The Imp realising what they were up to, the numbers Seven and Five danced a little dance around The Imp’s head. “Hmm, seven years, seven years…why does that sound so familiar?” thought the Imp. And then she remembered!

A long, long time ago, a wise old doctory person had told the Imp that the body heals itself in seven-year cycles. Now, this is an an idea that’s been around about 90 years. (Actually, cell life appears to vary. Spalding et al in 2005 found that intestinal tissue lives for 11 years, skeletal tissue for 15, and brain tissue is much longer-living – sometimes almost as old as the body carrying it.)

“Hmm,” thought The Imp again. “That’s all very well, but what does that mean for me? When I was seven, I had to move hundreds of miles from my family and my home. I was very unhappy for a long time…Until – ” and she stopped, smiling. “Until I was 14!”wheel-of-sevens.jpg

The Imp was running by the riverside at this point and laughed. From the age of 14 to 21, The Imp remembered it had worked very hard on all things academic, until it left college. Then 21 to 28 was all about marriage, until The Imp ran away to join the circus when it was 28. And so again, and very unimaginatively, The Imp thought, “Hmmm.” And then said, “It ain’t physical, but this sure as hell is a seven-year cycle in my life. What a funny set of coincidences!”

So, what was left? The last seven years, of course. Did they also fit a pattern, the years between 28-34? And you know what? They did indeed. They were about The Imp becoming itself. What? Oh, you want to know what that means? Well, there were Impish lovers and lovlings that had to happen but would never work, Living Alone, A Terribly Important Job and the Leaving of it, creating a company, leaving London and trying to become a freelance imp. Being Free. “Yes, thought Tricky Little Imp, that seven years also very definitely had a theme, with a beginning, a middle and an end. …But what’s next?”

But that, dear reader, is another story…. dancing-elf_edited.jpg

“What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art”: Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

What will we do here? I want to have fun, poke my mischievous fingers into the things around us, and have a sideways slanted peek into the everyday and the odd. It’s a Jamie-style salad: bring some garlic to throw in when you come. If you like.

The plan is manifold and always changing – but here’s the initial manifesto (for my benefit more than yours, I suspect):

– language is for playing with

– creativity should be messy and incomplete

– don’t be shy or die curious

– don’t apologise unless you’ve really done something wrong; otherwise, no permissions required

– don’t waste life subsuming yourself in chasing others’ approval

– laugh out loud when you’re on your own to frighten the neighbours.

Here is the Imp, last week, reflecting on how you can read all you like, write like a thing possessed and do your very best, but all in all, you’re a bit crap if you forget to live life, here, now, and not in the regrets and what-ifs of the past and the future.

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