Not home; alone

Today was awful.

Some interesting things are starting to happen in my studio, as the collection of found objects comes to critical mass. And I’m delighted with my dear little house.

Picture of front of house taken from teras, through apple tree branches.

But today was awful.

  • Everything I’ve done is unsatisfactory, to say the least.
  • I’m a third through my time, Turkish is not improving, Yoga barely happening.
  • I’m over-spent against my plan. Not badly, but…
  • I’ve totally lost touch with my Big Idea and I cannot see how to

Feeling like everything I hoped for, dreamed of for this trip, is beyond my reach. And that it’s My Own Fault. That I’m All Talk & No Action. That I’ve Spoiled It.

That I FAIL

If you’d walked through Güvercinlik Vadisi this afternoon you would have found me sobbing beside the trail.

I think it’s just loneliness, homesickness, adjustment. I’ve gone early to bed (warm, comfy) with a chocolate bar! sharing with you that not all days are perfect but no doubt this is a temporary feeling.

Thanks for listening.

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leave your work and go walking among trees

Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood

William Cullen Bryant

Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pained thee in the haunts of men
And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse
Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth,
But not in vengeance. God hath yoked to guilt
Her pale tormentor, misery. Hence, these shades
Are still the abodes of gladness; the thick roof
Of green and stirring branches is alive
And musical with birds, that sing and sport
In wantonness of spirit; while below
The squirrel, with raised paws and form erect,
Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the shade
Try their thin wings and dance in the warm beam
That waked them into life. Even the green trees
Partake the deep contentment; as they bend
To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky
Looks in and sheds a blessing on the scene.
Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy
Existence, than the winged plunderer
That sucks its sweets. The massy rocks themselves,
And the old and ponderous trunks of prostrate trees
That lead from knoll to knoll a causey rude
Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots,
With all their earth upon them, twisting high,
Breathe fixed tranquillity. The rivulet
Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o’er its bed
Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks,
Seems, with continuous laughter, to rejoice
In its own being. Softly tread the marge,
Lest from her midway perch thou scare the wren
That dips her bill in water. The cool wind,
That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee,
Like one that loves thee nor will let thee pass
Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.

This poem is in the public domain.

About This Poem

“Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood” was published in Bryant’s book Poems (A. Hart, Late Carey & Hart, 1854).

Going to the water

When I’m angry, sad, afraid or hurt – thankfully a diminishing proportion of my time – I go to the water.

A swim or a walk on the beach is exercise, always a good tactic for emotional balancing.
There’s beautiful or at least neutral sensory input (scenery, sound of waves, texture of sand, buffeting by the wind) all of which help me get out of my head and into my body.
Even more beneficial, the ocean or river is an unmistakeable reminder that everything changes, all difficulties wash away in time. That anger, fear or sadness need not be permanent.

gratitude, again

I’m sure I’ve written about gratitude before. It’s still a somewhat selfish activity – most times I’m deliberately practicing gratitude because I know it’s one of my best strategies in the battle against gloom. There is nothing more effective in quelling a pity-party than counting your blessings, speaking aloud an audit of beatitude.

But sometimes, there’s a spontaneous magical moment of simple joyous realization of how good and beautiful life is.  I like to think those moments come as a result of deliberate practice.

Thank you, holy universe, for those moments.

the despicable emotion

Tonight I did an incredibly rare thing for me.  I expressed my suddenly unbearable internal misery in 15 tweets of self-pity.

I simply could not be either positive or silent any longer, despite using every hard-won technique in my extensive repertoire of mental health management. Go look at them here https://twitter.com/stitchsarah if schadenfreude is your thing. Or maybe you’ll just be disgusted.

It wasn’t fun or pretty.  Some very kind people contacted me with beautiful messages, for which I am truly grateful, but overall it wasn’t a good exercise. I ended up ashamed, disgusted with myself, resolving to try harder to keep those feelings away from public view. I’m well aware that this post is an exercise in ritual self-humiliation in futile expiation of the above-mentioned shame. Along with all the risks of being transparent about imperfection.

Folk wisdom says it’s best to be honest, to share your real feelings. But look at what the images for self-pity show. It’s an emotion that is mocked and despised. Where’s the distinction between so-despicable self-pity, and the honest and necessary acknowledgement that one is desperately unhappy?

Naturally I’m fighting to turn away from this. Yes, I’m practicing gratitude for every scrap of good in my life AND the lessons from the difficult stuff. Of course I’m doing my bloody utmost to be positive. Most of the time it works. But not all.

Saying "Yes!"

This week I am dusting off and reusing a strategy that has served me well in the past.

It’s the YES model. Here’s why:

My permanent, serious mental health condition has had a lot of influence on my life. I take it seriously, and have learned a lot about managing my condition and reducing its impact on me, and on the people around me. This is very good, but it’s all too easy for diligence in self-care to become fear-driven obsessiveness.  I find myself in a pattern of conscientiously saying “No” to risks and challenges.

It sounds responsible, but when overdone becomes a way of hiding from the world, of opting out from development and accountability. Living small.

The YES model means saying YES! to every opportunity that comes my way. Taking risks, trying things out, committing to new actions.  It also means deliberately assessing new things first in the light of their benefits (maybe look at risks later) and in general having a lot more fun.

It sounds a little scary, but so far I have not been offered anything that would do me any actual harm. Most things don’t. Here are a few I can share:

  • swapped a seat with a stranger on a plane (karma points)
  • made a date with a stranger (great conversation)
  • tasted something extremely spicy (yum!)
  • tasted something weird of unknown composition (so-so but now I know)
  • went to a sports game in a foreign city (fun)
  • shared a cigarette with a new colleague (1 won’t kill me)
  • tasted wine (negotiated self-imposed alcohol ban)

The downside to the YES strategy is that I get very busy, and sometimes a little tired. Moderation returns in time, and I have a more sunny and relaxed disposition and some new stories. Rinse and repeat.

Caffeine. Or lack thereof.

There is not enough caffeine in the universe.

To be more accurate, there is not enough decent-tasting steam-extracted essence of skilfully-roasted bean of Coffea arabica here in Ohio. I’m very fond of the buckeye state, and hope to return, but future travel plans will place it at the end of my US acclimatisation phase, not the beginning. What we have here, to paraphrase the famous Arthur Dent, is a liquid almost entirely but not quite unlike coffee.

It gets worse. Mysterious substances like “non-dairy creamer” are added. The mind boggled on reading the label. One way of telling that the cognitive processes are sub-par: if I were in my right mind I would not have read that label.

It’s truly amazing I can read that label, and operate this piece of delicate machinery, because although the clock on the wall claims it is 08:16, every cell in my body is firmly convinced it is just past midnight. It is so far after my bedtime that it is in fact time to get up. And have a coffee.

Those who know me well, know I have a finely tuned awareness of the effect on me of many psychoactive substances. I self-medicate with care and precision. Caffeine is the thing I need. Sugar is not. So a can of Red Bull or similar is not the answer. Yes, they come in “diet” varieties, but honestly, I need to wake up and *smell* the coffee, as well as drink it!