Angst

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‘Angst’

” If you ask me what the most grotesque thing about alcoholism was I’d have said, indeed I did so over and over to anyone who asked – and plenty who didn’t – it wasn’t the physical stuff, it wasn’t the humiliating death stuff… it was the sadness. I called it my angst. A suitable august, Germanic word for a basement depression that was fathomless and occasionally erupted in gasping panic. And even when locked away it would seep out and sour every other emotion, like bitters in milk. Alcoholic despair is a thing apart, created by the drink that is a depressant, but also the architect of all the  pratfall calamities that fuel it. Alcohol is the only medication the drunk knows and trusts, a perfectly hopeless circle of angst, and it is powered by a self-loathing that is obsessively stoked and fed. And it’s that – the personally awarded, vainly accepted disgust – that  makes it so hard to sympathise with drunks. Nothing you can say or do comes close to the wreaths of guilt we lay at our own cenotaph.”

–  A.A .Gill, from “Pour Me: A Life.” (highlights mine, as were the lowlights…)

The Very Necessary Narrow View

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Window, Tower of London      October 2019

We all want to be seen to be broad minded and to be the one to take the wider perspective.

This shot of a window in the Tower of London (a prison to many unfortunates centuries ago) gives a little lie to that virtue.

For there is a time to take the narrow view.

When it is the only view.

When you are in darkness, or a jail of circumstances beyond your control.

Then the sliver of light and the merest glimpse of the exterior is enough to give hope.

Some small positivity, manageable to a damaged spirit.

The whole luminescent world of possibility is too much to contemplate in that grim time.

If you are there, as I have undoubtedly been, it’s okay to do only what you can and take the narrow view…

Calm Before The Calm

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      Orewa Beach, Auckland NZ

As calm as an ocean gets.

A beach as flat as a pancake.

Gorgeous, idyllic, serene et cetera.

Fantastic for a day, a week maybe.

What if your life was this scene, endlessly?

That’s not being calm, that’s becalmed ; the doldrums, in which your ship stalls.

Maybe it’s just me, but when matters are progressing really smoothly for any length of time, it’s easy to go on auto pilot, to think: “I’ve got this.”

And that’s precisely when I need to beware.

I don’t wish for turbulence, storms or (god forbid) shipwrecks but if they occur, they (if nothing else) take away my driftwood-like complacency…

 

 

Fractured

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Self-help/lifestyle books and sites are full of tips to assist you to “lead your best life”.

I  am not exactly in love with that phrase, nor some of the iffy suppositions behind it.

The general themes involve the person with the less than best life adopting new mental and physical practices,and sooner or later(preferably sooner) their life is transformed.

There are big assumptions in all of this – first, that you are able to help yourself (it wouldn’t be self-help otherwise!) and, secondly, that what has improved one person will do the same for another.

Sometimes true, often false.

Hard to assess, given the range of “solutions” on offer run the gamut from plain old common sense to ludicrous and even dangerous fads.

And mostly, the improvement schemes are aimed at ,and picked up by, those whose lives are just a bit “off “. Easy marks.

People who are broken, whose lives are fractured, fragmented, do not reach for lists with titles like “10 Ways To A Happier You – Now!” They don’t give a flying f**k about trite inspirational messages on cushions,bumper stickers or coffee mugs. If the Dalai Lama  himself showed up on the doorstep,with his sweet infinite wisdom, they would tell him to piss off. And nobody, I repeat, nobody, needs a coffee enema…

When you cannot do life ,you can’t do “need to do” bullet point lists.

The ones who are lost, trust me on this, don’t need to be told how to make themselves whole or found ,or whatever.

They need to be understood and accepted ,and there is no quick fix in that. Only time, and the love of others, will reach the soul and give the fractured the wherewithal to move themselves on.

 

 

 

 

 

Battered Protector

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Wooden groyne at a small beach on Auckland’s Tamaki River.

Groynes are structures that are supposed to prevent shoreline erosion by trapping sand and sediment moved by sea tides.

Pretty evidently,this specimen has seen better days.

Years of protecting the shore against wind and waves have taken a toll. Bits of the structure are gone but it still protects the coast.

Parallel with humans exist – worn down,carers and protectors amongst us can eventually suffer from “compassion fatigue” ,and worse.

If that sounds like you, please remember to shore up your own timbers before fighting the tide -take care of yourself as a priority!

 

The Experiences And The Meaning

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” We had the experiences but missed the meaning “

    – T.S Eliot , ‘The Dry Salvages’

I went down to the water’s edge earlier this morning, the sun penetrating the sea fog, the light quietly spectacular. There was a fleeting moment of soul connection and calm.

Then, as is my wont, my mind ticked over to what I needed to do today, tomorrow and into the near future.

The moment was gone and  the experience had lost its meaning.

The sun and the water had not changed, or maybe imperceptibly.

But I had moved on.

How many little moments or experiences are lost just like that, as I  am “elsewhere” even though physically present?

And then the best I can hope for is that the meaning of the experience will come to me in hindsight.

Just a reminder to myself to be mindful and soulful, even in the smallest experience, for it may not occur again.

 

Kick Against The Pricks

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Carrying on from yesterday’s post, ‘Barbed Wire Blues’, on the theme of things sharp, pointy and generally unpleasant, pictured is a gorse plant. Originally introduced from Europe to New Zealand as a farm hedge plant, gorse has misbehaved in spectacular fashion, spreading everywhere like wildfire and is considered the most noxious ground weed in the country. Most Kiwis would have come off second best in an encounter with this prickly, thorny bastard.

Botany lesson over, the title of the post  comes from an old  Greek saying :”It is hard for you to kick against the pricks”.It crops up in the New Testament too.It has to with beasts of burden being controlled in work like plowing and haulage by a sharp prod.To kick against it would mean the prod would dig in deeper.Not great.

When we go against our own nature  and true gut instincts,and are not in tune with our environment,matters can  get painfully worse,or that is my experience at least .Sometimes best not to fight the tide!

On the other hand,given the modern colloquial  use of ‘pricks’ ,it is tempting to give those people who cause us grief a fair kicking…

Shift Yr Narrative : Comment

I hope that the pictures in the preceding post ‘Shift Yr Narrative’ tell a story, or perhaps two stories, of one subject ,on their own. But since I am talking about narratives I will add some words as well….

A narrative is the description of a thing or event from a certain perspective. It can be as sweeping  as an entire world view or, in the telling of a tale, merely a different narrator ,tense or location, for example.

So, what does it take to shift the narrative in our own lives?

A momentous event of change;maybe a crisis of some sort ?

Or perhaps changing  the tense of our story, so that we do not live in the past ,or in  a future yet to arrive ,but in the present?

What would our life look like if we fully authored it and not allowed the manuscript to be ghostwritten by others?

And, can multiple narratives of our lives each be true, wholly or in part?

Many questions and no right answers – but if our lives are not unfolding as we think they ought to be ,and that uncomfortable reality cannot otherwise be altered  , maybe changing it around and taking another  perspective will assist us to move on.

Shift yr narrative!

Hiatus (Never Mind The Gap!)

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Yesterday I went to the funeral  I mentioned in my previous post ,and it  got me thinking. Not about death(although that would be the ultimate hiatus!),but about taking a pause in life’s endeavours.It could be voluntary or thrust upon us.

I was speaking to an old friend at the funeral I had not seen for many years and he was in hiatus mode,and waiting for his next work/vocational opportunity.Waiting around can be hard , sometimes even harder than being in the middle of some major work or relationship ,which demands constant action but has the comfort of the known. As we wait, anxiety and boredom may creep in, self-doubt also.Those emotions and behaviours in themselves can give us learnings.

On the positive side,there is the opportunity to refresh and recalibrate.Taking a break from the known gives new perspective on what it is we do,the hows and the whys of those things.Modern life is not particularly geared to reflection,and it not often seen as a virtue.It is non – linear thinking and it is hard to show proof of its utilitarian worth.

And,as nature apprently abhors a vacuum,a hiatus is not nothing. It will fill itself with new inspiration and wonders ;the universe will pour in if we allow it.

My second son took  a hiatus in study last year ,and worked a couple of jobs.He simply wasn’t ready for university study.That used to be called  a’ gap’ year – like something you fall down. Maybe you never climb back out…. I have heard it called a ‘bridge’ year now and  I think I like that better,the idea of travelling over the unknown to the other side,whatever  that is.The universe is preparing us for the whatever next,often without us being conscious of it.

The photo above depicts low cloud hanging almost to ground level on a volcanic plateau.The wind has died away. Still,and just a bit eerie.That cloud actually obscures a spectacular,picturesque  mountain.It’s there,it’s just not visible to you now.After the hiatus,when the winds pick up and disperse the cloud, the mountain ,the next thing ,will hopefully be clear.

 

 

 

Why Do You Stay?

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“Why do you stay in prison, when the door is so wide open?”

                                                                         – Rumi

Last  night I was watching a rerun of the movie ‘The Terminal’, starring Tom Hanks. His character is from a fictional republic in the  former Soviet Union and he  lands at New York ,but because of a revolution at home he is rendered stateless and thus unable to leave the  airport terminal .He has a personal mission  he must achieve in NY ,but when he is “gifted” a small envelope of time by the immigration authorities to walk out to America ,while they turn a blind eye , he hesitates at the doors ,and cannot exit, held back by fears.

The scene Rumi’s words above . All of us have at some time been held captive by fear and doubt, often of   our own making. When the chance  to escape comes, are we courageous enough to do so, or will we languish in our all too familiar cell?