Monthly Archives: June 2014

No man is an island…. but sometimes!!

Image

For my school exams in my final year, I had to write an essay on the novel Silas Marner, titled ‘No man is an island’; discuss…

I had read the book inside and out, upside and down and felt at the mere age of 18 I knew everything; that I was a champion of the world, that at 18, I knew all there was to know and pretty much acted that way.  Gosh, when I look back now, I realize how absurd that confidence was, given how little I knew of life and the curveballs it can throw at you.

That essay however has stuck with me during good and bad times, because what I did know even then (though only in some small way) is that none of us are alone; no matter how much we may think otherwise.

Our lives impact the people around us in ways we cannot comprehend when we are that young and the older we get, the more of an impact our presence or absence can have on those around us.  (Philosophical lesson over!)

I have a friend, (I love her to bits) who has seen me through my fair share of dark days and endless weeks, when I have felt nothing but emptiness.  She has given to me without a thought of receiving anything back.  Through some of her darkest days though, I have been there to wipe away her tears, to hold her and assure her everything would be okay, even though I hadn’t a clue if that was actually the truth.

But!

(And there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there:  otherwise life would just be boring!!)

At this point in her life she is happy.  However, some time back when times weren’t as good, she underwent cognitive therapy and thinks it is the best thing since sliced bread.   It doesn’t work for me!   But she espouses the virtue of this each time I mention a dark day or moment, or fleeting thought.  I have talked to her about things I’ve not spoken to most other people about; but when I ask for advice, what has happened before all gets spewed back at me as if it was some kind of viscous vomit.  Her intention is not to hurt, and I know that, but having a constant reminder of how things ‘were’ instead of how things ‘now are’ is not very soothing for my spirit.

The problem, the big ‘But’ in the room is I have told her this, and yet…. And yet….  my past experiences continue to become a ‘present day’ incident in her mind, irrespective of the now!  She wants to be my balm.  So what happens when you don’t need consolation and yet it is thrust upon you?  This is my dilemma.  For the most part I hold my own, for the most part I love her company, for the most part I can tell her most things with the complete confidence it goes no further.

But!

I also don’t want to be reminded of those times when life wasn’t good.

Imagine a champion jockey constantly being reminded of the races he lost, or a fighter being reminded of the times he was knocked out, irrespective of the times they have won –or their present circumstances?  No man is an island!  Where would we be without friends?  But sometimes, I want to be on an island, or at least have my present cheerfulness celebrated as much as my past miseries.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life and Health

I went to look for myself.

Image

I never really understood people who took time out to find themselves.

I remember hearing about an acquaintance that had taken a full year off to do just that; to go find her and discover who she really was?  At the time I was a young mother of three and a busy administrator who worked a full day and then had to come home and do all the things a young mother has to do also:

one I got home, peeled off the office-wear, changed into baggies,

talked to my children,

found out about their day, their worries and stresses and who’s not speaking to whom in school,

helped them with their homework,

made the dinner, cleaned up afterwards,

talked to hubby when he came home (much later than I) and found out about his day, listened to his stresses,

washed clothes,

tidied up the house and after all that

vegetate in front of the tv for an hour before falling in to bed and going straight to sleep to get up the next day and do it all again.

So hearing about someone who had taken a full year out to find themselves was to me the ultimate in narcissism. And a total cop-out!

What was there to find?

Where did she think she’d been?

How come she was lost?

What or who did she think she was going to find?

Did she really think she didn’t actually know who she was and if so, how is that possible?

I felt that people ‘like that’ had literally too much time on their hands and too much time in their heads; it was time I’d love to have, but it wouldn’t be used to ‘find myself’; it was time I would use to spend with the children, time

I would use to get ahead of myself for a change instead of running to keep up,

it was time I would use simply to have a bath – in peace – without a knock on the bathroom door or a muffled ‘Mom’, recalling me to action!

It was time I’d use wisely, it was time ‘I needed’!!

But as I say, I would not use it for something ‘fluffy’ like going to look for myself.That was all before I lost my own self!

That was before a chronic bout of depression left me ‘missing’.

I have struggled with bi-polar disorder for nearly 20 years. But this was different.  This was pure depression; pure jadedness, pure despondency, pure emptiness.

It was as if someone had turned off a light in my head, in my heart and in my soul: as if there was some sort of parasite living inside of me sucking the very life out of everything I saw, I touched, I did, I was. I wanted quiet, silently screamed for it, in my surroundings, in my home, but most of all in my head. For the first time in my life I was totally lost.

I’d not been writing consistently for a long time and when I did, it was mainly for work. I had not the time, nor the inclination to do it for pleasure; so taking out the laptop and writing just for me, for the joy of it, was way down my list of priorities.

Of course, it shouldn’t have been, but it was!

(Note to self, write something every day from now on.)

But now, now that I was lost, I had to do something to try and find myself again. And when I’m feeling bad, the first thing I want to do is write it down.

Perhaps this is a throwback to when I was first diagnosed, my psychiatrist suggested I keep a diary of my moods. What started off as one sentence ‘reports’ on how I was feeling turned into gargantuan essays within a few years.

But I found the writing down of how I was feeling a ‘balm’ for my soul.   Even though in the past this has worked for me, I found even the refuge of writing resulted in a flat timber, a stiff affect, a soullessness so unfamiliar not only to me, but my nearest and dearest.

One of my sisters became very concerned after a number of emails from me seemed ‘empty of my personality’, completely ‘hollow’. She lives in Australia and a huge amount of communication between us is done by these long, rambling, newsy, fun filled emails. But she felt I was gone, gone was the fun, gone was the up-beat me, gone was the news. Instead each email was filled with how hard life had become, how joyless everything was; how I hadn’t laughed in months. I remember telling her the sound of my own laugh surprised me one day, when almost involuntarily I had laughed out loud at something my daughter had said and the sound was alien to my ears.

It took me by surprise!

That was when I knew I needed time. That was when I realized that it can be possible to lose yourself in a crowd, especially a crowd of people who know and love you.

That was when I recognized the importance of being true to yourself.

That was when I appreciated the need to have time to find myself.

That was at last when I understood you can lose the very heart of who you are at what seems a moments notice, the turn of a coin, the adversity of life and how it is important not only for you, but all those around you who you love to take time to find who you really are, or to come back to who you really are.

And wow, what a journey that can be……..

1 Comment

Filed under Life and Health

With age and Wisdom comes freedom (Part 2)

Image

One of my friends read my blog piece on ‘age, wisdom and intolerance’ before we met up for a night out recently.  A school-mate had come home from afar and those of us who live close spent a wonderful night in her company regaling her with stories of our lives and catching up with hers.  Towards the end of the night, the few smokers among us were outside the venue and as we sat beside each other, my pal (the other smoker!!) told me I was wrong to feel the way I did about other people or certainly how I expressed it in my blog.

My friend told me that for her, the opposite has happened.  She used to be closed off to the influences of other people, to the ‘camaraderie’ of other people, because she somehow felt they would have no interest in her; getting to know her, to talk to her and as a result she stayed ‘closed off’ to them.  It is only in the last few years that she has opened herself to more opportunities, to meeting new people, to not prejudging what others will think of her and letting what will happen just happen, that she is now willing to open a conversation and see where it goes.  My friend feels that this has enriched her life and that by opening herself up to new people, new experiences, new approaches to life that she is the better for it.

I understand all that.  I understand the feelings of confinement within the restrains of my personality, my life experiences, my life indeed!  For me, freedom came when I recognized I am important; not more important than anyone else, but as important as everyone else.  I understood that to grow in this life, I needed to open myself up, to free myself from who I thought I was.  Part of that freedom, that new found sense of self didn’t go down well with those who constantly saw me unwell; as someone to be ‘minded’ to be ‘guided’, to be ‘led’.  Because for me, wellness brought a new sense of self worth, I didn’t want to be minded, guided or led any more.  I wanted to take my place alongside them, not behind them.  I wanted to open myself to the possibility of re-connecting with other people.  In that I think I agree with my pal Tina.  I do open myself up to other people now, in a way I didn’t in the past and I get rewarded time and time again, because other peoples opinions, their life experience, their sense of who they are is wonderful – different – divergent – stimulatingly wonderfully different to mine – and that’s what’s unique to them.

I think that we are actually on the same page, Tina and I.  I just think we came to the same conclusions through different routes; and express it differently  Its not that I am completely intolerant of other people, don’t get me wrong; what I am intolerant of though, is the feeling that some would put me back ‘behind’… Those are the ones I will spend no time on – those are the friendships I won’t take any further, those are the ones who are ‘not worth it’.  But I will talk to anyone!  I can be outrageous and it is absolutely freeing, because I now have only one real critic: myself.

My friend has opened herself up by starting a conversation with people who years ago she would have just nodded at and then quickly passed the other way.  I am doing the same thing; opening a conversation with others.  We both agree that it is freeing, it is liberating in a way and it is truly wonderful.  I know for me, I don’t want to be put back in that box I created for myself.  And that is what I meant by being intolerant of others.  Perhaps intolerant is too strong a word.  Perhaps it is freedom I seek most of all: freedom to be who I really am.  But isn’t that what we all seek?  A freedom to be, a freedom to think, a freedom to act – responsibly!!  This life is not a dress rehearsal for what is to come; (and THAT is a whole other conversation), but what we have and who we are should not be squandered, should not be wasted.  For me, age and wisdom has meant I can be free to be who I am.  I am still learning all the time; through my family, through my siblings, my children, my parents, my husband, and all those who know me.  And it does bring a ‘reluctance’ to spend time with others who would not value that time in me as I value it in them.   I don’t mean that everyone who comes into my life HAS to enrich it; there are those who simply pass through, who I may engage in conversation at a door and enjoy the banter but that is fleeting, it is not those I speak of, when I write here. So perhaps my friend Tina is right:  Intolerance brings its own form of danger to a person, and standoffishness means I can be left being ‘intolerant’ on my own!  So lets end this by saying; with age and wisdom comes freedom! – And a reluctance to have that freedom quashed!

Leave a comment

Filed under education, family, Life and Health

With age and wisdom comes freedom and – intolerance?

 

Image

With age and wisdom comes freedom and intolerance?

When I was in my teens I was very unsure of myself. Outwardly, I may have appeared self-confident, I had an almost brash attitude but it hid a turmoil most teens have to go through almost as a rite of passage.   It is the same struggle most of us go through. I was not unique or different; I was simply growing up. During those years however, I ‘accepted’ much more than I do today. Now in my forties, I have at last ‘grown in’ to my personality, become comfortable in my own skin, in a way that had someone told my teenage self it would happen, I would simply have laughed out loud at the idea. My self worth was measured back then by who my friends were, where I came in a group setting, how others viewed me and lastly it was how I viewed myself. As a result, I, in a way, became many things to many people, and not the same to all. I morphed into what I thought others would accept, or like to see, or the type of person others would like to be around. As a result, I was not true to myself, or the person I could be. It was only years later after I had lived a certain amount of life that I realized to be true to myself, to simply be me is much more potent to others than any facade I could reveal as my ‘self’ that was not a true picture of who I was.

But what that delay also did was leave me surrounded by very strong people with very strong personalities who somehow subdued mine. I became a follower of sorts: not an equal, not what I wanted to be. I wanted to be seen as ‘as important’ as they valued themselves. I put up with a mode of behavior that at times tried to stifle my developing individuality. When I grew strong enough, when I came into myself; that is when some of the friendships fell apart.

The fact that they did is testament to them, to who they were and how they wanted me to act around them and not an indication of any true weakness on my part. But it took a long time for me to realize that, thinking instead that the ‘lacking’ was actually in me. I do put that error in judgment down to my bi-polar. Because irrespective of who you are, when you struggle with ongoing depression, you do lose yourself at times along with your sense of worth and true distinctiveness. I suppose you can say that depression in a way is the ultimate black hole for egotism. Self -importance is converted into the ultimate humility when facing down the apparent eternal blackness of depression. But when someone is not feeling their best (irrespective of any disorders), they can be more easily manipulated than if they were fully themselves. Perhaps I should say I can be more easily led, more easily influenced, as I can only ever speak for myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my life and found love with someone I adore and who adores me. But when my first child was born, I developed post-natal symdrome and then bi-polar depression that has lasted for years. (I’ve not been sick constantly for years, it is a recurring illness with drastic highs and plummeting lows.) Though medication and a huge amount of self awareness helps, I can safely say it has landed me back at square one a number of times. It made me very unsure of myself and those who surrounded me at times, and at times I let them lead; leading me to places I would not have gone willingly were I of ‘sound mind’. I know that when I sit down to write anything my depression always gets a mention, but to be honest, it does permeate my life even when I am well. I second-guess everything I do: am I on a high today? Would I do or say this normally? Do I feel manic, am I spending too much money, am I being thoughtless or too thoughtful? Am I letting my life slip by without ever really enjoying it? I think when you have suffered depression, you learn to take what comes when it comes and be grateful for what you have, what you are and who you are at ‘that particular moment’. If I was to wait till I am well to ever do or say anything, I’d be left waiting…. And so would everyone else in my life.

But to get back to the ‘friends’. Those who have very strong personalities are the ones I now tend to gravitate towards. Those are the people I am really interested in, who have lived their lives well despite any adversity or cruelty they have lived through. What makes people interesting to me is their foibles; perhaps I recognize myself in them somehow. Perhaps admiring their strength irrespective of that hardship is my way of recognizing that the more interesting a person is to me equates with the more difficult their life has been to this point and I recognize that they have lived through it, come out the other side and are still saying “Hey world… look at me….” I can say that now, because I’ve lived twenty years of my adult life and enjoy the wisdom that comes from the very living of those years. I enjoy the fact I don’t have to look in the mirror and care what anyone else thinks! I can have clothes for ‘fat days’ and clothes for ‘not so fat days’, I can do my hair or leave it tossed, I can wear make up or not! I can do what I feel I want to do and not have to worry about how that will make me seem to other people. I have reached the stage in my life where if I am not of value to someone else for ME, then they are not worth my time. Because all they will ever get now is the real me.

I’m not a shadow any more, I’m not a ‘one size fits all friendships’ any more. I value people for who they are and I don’t like ‘show’ for show’s sake; show me who you really are or get lost! I’m not interested in a façade, it holds no meaning for me, I’m not interested in someone telling me I look wonderful when I know I don’t. I’m not interested in hearing half-truths – tell me the truth or don’t talk to me. It is this part of me that feels I am becoming intolerant the older I get. I don’t suffer fools well. I don’t like mommy figures, thanks I have my own. I don’t like bullies, I don’t like people who hurt others just because they can and I don’t react well to being told what to do – I think I’ve earned the right to do as I please responsibly (within reason) so long as I am not hurting someone or myself deliberately. I no longer look at others my age and wish I were them, or looked like them, or had their ‘stuff’. I am content in my life, with my life and who I have now become. That comfort in my own skin is very liberating and I think makes me a more interesting person than who I was twenty years ago. It gives me a freedom to be the me I always wanted me to be. But it also make me intolerant of those who can’t be true to themselves. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing!

1 Comment

June 20, 2014 · 4:30 pm