Sunday, 27 February 2011

Not To Worry

This morning's sermon was based on the Sermon on the Mount and was about worry.

We were enjoined to trust in The Lord and not to waste our precious time on earth worrying needlessly about all and everything.

I can see the sense in this, and even in time, might learn to trust that I am not necessarily the best person to try to analyse my problems, real or imaginary.  Somehow, however, the thought of simply offering up my perceived difficulties to God asking for help and guidance and relinquishing control is a very bizarre concept for me.

This is not arrogance, more a fear of losing my grip on my daily problems.  We are told that we are each responsible for our own actions, how, therefore can we just abandon all effort to sort our own difficulties out.?

An inveterate worrier I have lived my entire life in the fear of what might happen (often ignoring what was actually happening at the time) to such an extent that I have half crippled myself  by allowing inhibitions nervous imaginings, perhapses and maybes to rule my behaviour.

Somewhere it is written (I think possibly in The Qran) "Oh Lord, help me to overcome adversity, but not before it arrives"

Introspection is a part of daily living to a fairly depressive person and can be a useful tool as well as a barrier to social interaction.  It is when it in turn becomes the obsessive dwelling on perceived problems, injustices past and present, and the looking inward for non-existent answers that it becomes unhealthy.

This morning the sermon was a good one, an uplifting one, and for me a pointer to a different way of facing adversity.  Why then, apart from the fact that it is once again raining, has it left me particularly low spirited?

Writing something in my diary on my return home, the answer came to me like a bolt from the blue.  Today is/was my wedding anniversary.  It would have  been our 40th.

Strange isn't it how once you have discovered what is 'bugging' you it tends to lose its importance.

Not to worry!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Mind That Gap

It is now only about 3 weeks before Spring.  Already I have snowdrops, crocus, hellebores pink hyacinths and four or five Winter/Spring-flowering shrubs in bloom.

Though it has now turned wet again, the day and a half of sunshine has wrought small miracles in my poor benighted garden, not least of which is the fact that I've actually done a little work.

One thing however, struck me with great force and that was the unshadedness (is there  such a word?) of the back  garden, the result of some fairly drastic tree removal by a neighbour last Autumn. (see Woodman Spare that Tree).

There are benefits of course, not least that the sun - when it deigns to show its face - has access to areas previously deeply shaded, but the minus points are the loss of some - one in particular - really lovely specimens of Acer.

The awkward balancing acts of squirrels and the larger birds on my smaller shrubs and lilac tree, while quite entertaining to watch, make me wonder where some of them will nest this year.

I know they weren't 'my' trees, but they were my landscape and framed my garden and therefor my life to a degree and I've lost a point of reference.  Odd isn't it, how the actions of others affect us?

One of Those Days

Have just returned from an early excursion into town.  Needing some new underwear thought hmmm half-term and Friday, not a good combination.  So early bus - too early for library to be open means going back on my tracks, Oh well, nice day, good exercise.

Bought all I wanted with no difficulty, popped into W H Smith for TV Times,  long long queue.  Why?  Tills not operating.  Eventually fixed, queue moves battle somewhere behind me, loud voices, lost tempers "I was in front of you" sort of stuff and it's only 9.30am.

What else did I want?  Can't remember, can't be that important head for bus stop.  My bus just pulling away,
dropped jaw must have registered with the driver who stopped bus and let me on with a smile.  Wow! is this really England or have I popped into a parallel universe?

Easy run home, lots of nice easy chat with fellow travellers.

Step into my hallway, green light flashing on phone "you have one new message".  The photographers in town who are printing some old transparancies for me to tell me they are ready to pick up.

Now I remember what the other thing was!!!!!!

Oh well, next week will do.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

All the perfumes of Araby

I remarked to a friend this morning that a mutual friend smelled delicious.  This was not to imply that I fancied him lightly grilled , but just that the way he cologned, after-shaved or whatever appealed to my nose.

Later in the day another friend called at the house with a newsletter for me and commented on the wonderful fragrance of a shrub in the garden.  It turned out not to be in my garden at all, but next door, though the perfume was so strong it seemed closer.

This led me to think about the way scents stick in our memories so that over an - often quite long period of time - we associate an event with a particular perfume.

As a small child I spent 6 months with my paternal grandparents in Penarth in South Wales, and for me one of the most memorable things about that period was the smell of the air.  A mixture of sea, local stone and the smoke from the little local railway, known as the halt.  So strong was this heady brew that if I had been led blindfold to the area I would have instantly known where I was.

Then our house in Birmingham covered in honeysuckle had the most overpowering perfume imaginable.
My  parents were both keen gardeners and the roses were an ever-present presence along with lilac sweetpeas and wallflowers. 

As a child I had a very keen sense of smell and even 30 or 40 years later could identify particular roses by their unique perfumes.

Of course, not all smells are associated with happy memories and just as a vase of lilac can evoke instant memories of 'home', so certain other flowers have sad or even traumatic connotations.  I love freesias above all other flowers, both for their delicate fragile beauty, lovely colours and exquisite scent, but they have a very sad connection for me and admiration is always tinged with melancholy.

The smell of freshly cut grass, freshly baked bread, and above all, for me, freshly brewed coffee add enormously to life's pleasures. 

It may not be my best feature but, I am very glad to have my nose and my sense of smell.

I sound like Pollyanna don't I?

The art of saying nothing in hundreds of words.

Since it appears that the current 'wide awake night, zhombie day' state of play is to be my way of life for a while, I shall endeavour to attract a wider audience (laughs hollowly) for my illiterate outpourings.

How to do that?

Well, it seems to me that my offerings to date have been rather too tame, a little too circumspect, a tad genteel.  So maybe an alternative, slightly more racy approach would work.

Is that really me though?

No.  Sadly not.  Nevertheless I have come up with a novel idea.  Just suppose someone out there might like to suggest a subject instead of racking my poor little grey cell (singular) for something new to write about.
Seriously is anyone up to the challenge, if so, I'll have a shot.  I f not, and I've once again shot myself in the foot, I'll persist in my usual  meandering "snapper-up of unconsidered trifles" way, sometimes hitting but most often missing the mark.

It is really quite amazing how having absolutely nothing of any use to say can result in such a huge spate of words.

Waffling some people call it.  Others have ruder descriptions!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Making Assumptions

This morning on my way to church by taxi (no buses available that early), I was taken by surprise when my taxi-driver started a theological discussion on our way to St. M's.

He was, as are virtually all the taxi-drivers in this town, of Indian or Pakistani origin, so my natural/automatic mental picture was of yet another follower of Mohammed who was about to present me with the standard (it has happened many times before) illustration of the differences in our two religions.

There is a driver I often enjoy long debates with on my way home on Sundays, but to my consternation, this young man started by asking me if St. M's was Roman Catholic.  He thought by virtue of the name, it must be so.  Having explained that most of the churches in the Church of England have saints' names, I then went on to explain that ours was what used to be called 'high church' and was more commonly called Anglo Catholic these days.

He expressed surprise that I had shattered one of his illusions, (he had always believed St. M's to be
Roman Catholic and had been thinking of changing from St. Joseph's our local Roman Catholic church which was his church and where he had been Christened and confirmed.

We had just begun to discuss the differences and similarities of the two arms of Christianity when we arrived and I had to agree to continue the discussion 'next time'.

One day, if I live to be old enough, I may learn not to judge a book by its cover.

Sleepless in S.....

Well does it really matter where one is sleepless?
The fact of being awake (again) when most of the world is asleep is a constant factor in the lives of we insomniacs, not a cause for hand-wringing, nor yet a reason for celebration.  Just a tiresome, boring way of life.
This time I blame it on my innocent neighbours.  They are off on holiday, leaving for the airport in the wee small hours - not soundlessly.  But, in fact, I was already awake anticipating their departure.
This is another thing we do, we night owls.  It is not enough to be unable to sleep, or to be woken by odd noises.  There is also the 'soon be time for this or that' factor to be woven into our crazy time-scale.
When my late husband and I worked (in London) we had to leave at 6.00am which necessitated getting up at about 4.30am to allow time to feed cats, make sandwiches for lunch, have breakfast, put a load of washing on etc.  This in turn led to waking before the alarm clock went off in case it failed!!!!
The permanent state of anxiety engendered by the fear of being late in turn led to earlier and earlier waking until, by the time we retired we were both so paranoid that more than 4 hours sleep a night seemed like a criminal waste of time.
Even three or four years into retirement we, I in particular, were consumed with guilt if we 'overslept' and woke at some 'half way through the day' time, like, 7.30am or so.
Now, 18 months after John,s death, it is slowly dawning on me that it doesn't matter a jot what time I wake or get up.  Routines are self-imposed, not written into the constitution and if I fail to turn up somewhere I 'ought' to be, no-one is going to care even if they notice.
None of this however, makes it any easier to actually go to sleep in the first place, the big difference is that it has no impact on anyone but me these days.
We are told we need a certain amount of sleep to enable the body to repair damage and for the brain to function efficiently.  Since my body seems able to cope well without much and sometimes, any, sleep and my brain was never much to write home about in the first place, I guess I'll manage.
Lots of words, not much content, but then it is 3.15am!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Closer to God in a Garden

Today is one of my housework etc days, not one I relish and in my present self-pitying state any excuse to ditch the house for elsewhere, any elsewhere, is welcome.
The bright sunshine lured me out and grabbing some secateurs from the shed off I went on a tour of inpection.  Now for the last couple of years, such inspections have been of the whistle-stop variety, and no attempt to attract my attention, by even the most pitiful, neglected and forlorn-looking plant  has elicited more than a guilty, "I'll get round to you sooner or later".
This morning however, I actually noticed that as well as hundreds of snowdrops and purple and yellow crocus, there are also dozens of hellebores struggling to hold their lovely heads above the all-consuming weeds.  Winter jasmine's yellow stars are shining behind the 2-years growth of rose and hibiscus bushes and simply waiting for help.  A sudden surge of energy, much cutting, some digging (not much), and long-overdue dead-heading has cleared several patches of anxious little faces which are seeing daylight for the first time in their lives.
It was only a whim, and only about an hour's work, but both the garden and I feel better for it.
The same can not be said for my mud-covered jeans and broken finger nails.  A small price to pay for the final tiny silver edge appearing on the black horizon.
The black dog is retreating!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Sun is shining but the Day is Grey!

There is no other way to say this so, I am severely depressed!
This is not a 'spratt to catch a mackerel' approach to any unfortunate reader, simply, a statement of fact.

Once upon a time, I'd have been ashamed and embarrassed to admit to any such 'self-indulgent' state of affairs, not so now.  If I have learned nothing else (and it sometimes seems that way), in my long life it is certain that confessing to the awful crime of being wretched and miserable is not so very heinous after all.

No-one I believer, gets all the way through life without at least a fleeting brush with the 'black-dog' syndrome.  Sometimes it is such a short acquaintance as to be mostly beneficial, since it makes people stop, take stock  and try to establish where they have gone wrong.  On other occasions, it is rather more serious and can be extremely destructive and debilitating.

A lot depends on the cause.  This can be a temporary misfortune, a particularly unhappy experience or more seriously can be the result of days, weeks, sometimes months of negative thinking and can lead to many
potentially harmful behaviours.

There is of course, help to be had, which can take many forms:  a trip to your GP, a short course of medication, psychiatric treatment, cognitive therapy, counselling, or even something as simple as a few weeks of taking some herbal remedy such as St John's Wort, without recourse to any of the former.

But, and it is a big but.  One of the typical attitudes of the sufferer of depression is to try to hide how they feel.  The condition then grows - like Topsy - to giant proportions and eventually can become all-consuming.

If you know the cause of your depression theoretically you should be able to counteract negativity, but if the reason is one you recognise and about which you can do nothing, neither change how you feel, nor effectively do anything to change the basic problem - often one you cannot, will not admit to anyone -, then all you can do, which is what I am doing, is to wait and hope you will outgrow the particular obsession.

Try as you may, there is no way you can intellectualise depression away.  The reverse is true.  The more you think about the problem, the worse the obsession becomes.

When I started blogging, I had no idea what form my posts would take, they occur to me and end up in print. Not perhaps the wisest approach, but one which I find quite therapeutic. (with a small t).
This one however, is I am aware, a very different kettle of fish, not published with any other thought in mind than to offload some of the cloud, and, amazingly it has  had at least a temporary lightening of mood affect.

If anyone reads this and thinks I ought not to have published it please feel free to say so.  I believe in honesty whereever possible but am also aware that some things (at least for the reader), are better kept under wraps!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Seed Feed Weed

Having just spent a reluctant, necessary, half an hour in the front garden, attempting to reduce the invasion of "foreigners" into my sad wreck of a garden, I now realise how futile such mini sorties are.
For years the garden tiny, but rich with many (too many) plants of many species has been my main spare-time activity.  Since my husband's death there has been first no time, and now sadly, little interest in keeping things looking good.  This has extended into many areas of my life.  Now that there is no-one to care how it/I look, does it matter?
Today the all-too-rare sunshine, forced me to look at what needed to be done to even begin to restore some sort of order to the jungle.
All the carefully chosen, planted, fed, weeded shrubs, roses and bulbs are so neglected they would have made the former 'me' weep.  Not so now., though digging out a beast of a bramble from my choking Osmanthus I thought I heard a tiny sigh of relief.  I will of course, push myself from here on until things are looking better but it seems a joyless pastime at present.  Maybe just me!
It struck me how similar good gardening is to good religion.  First the seeds are sown, then the plants are fed and watered and finally a flourishing plant/faith emerges.  However, the weeds are always lying in wait hoping to take over.
I suppose it just would not do to allow them to win?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Oh Dear I'm Getting Old!

Came home from a rather nice "All age" church service or Family service this morning.  After changing out of choir robes I tend to grab my coat and run.  Not because I have anywhere in particular to go, but because I am basically shy (yes, even at my age), and hate hanging around to see whether I've enough courage to launch myself into one of the groups drinking coffee and chatting.
This time I needed to pick up a couple of items from a shop, or no breakfast tomorrow.  Still half of my mind on the anthem we had just sung, I handed the cashier my library card instead of my bank card.
Laughed, apologised and headed for the bus stop - only one every half hour on Sunday - (buses not stops).
and realised I had a ten minute wait.  Very windy but dry so seemed an easy prospect.  Pulling on my glove it flew out of my hand and set off to fly down the High Street.  Without a second's thought I tore after it only to have it dance ahead of me, stop, then fly off again three times.  Finally trapping it under my foot I retrieved it to a round of applause from two people who were at the bus stop.
Red faced, breathless and worse, my hands shaking I realised this was probably the first time I've run for about ten years.
At home, having sat down feet up with a mug of hot chocolate i switched on the TV started watching goodness only knows what, and woke with a stiff neck two hours later.
Now, I don't sleep during the day (and not much at night), so this really alarmed me.  Never one to cat-nap it would seem a corner has been turned.  Oh dear, the slippery slope.
At what stage I wonder, is it ok to just give in and sleep when it seems unavoidable, or should one fight to the last to remain conscious?
When is it alright to be old?

Friday, 4 February 2011

The Wind of Change

A few weeks ago I wrote a fairly whimsical word or two on the subject of wind.  Today, having had to nip out to my nearby one-stop for a couple of odds and ends, I encountered winds of a very different calibre.

Overnight we have seen, (and heard) gales blowing up, shrilling round the rooftops, lifting and relocating anything not tied down etc., but since it is mild I thought, Hmmm, light raincoat, scarf whip round the corner back in five minutes.

Our lovely intemperate climate had other ideas.  First of all, there was the rain, unseen, but felt.  Like a poorly functioning shower, soaking but intermittent.  The noise of the wind was by now loud enough to drown traffic noise, which necessitated turning round to check before crossing roads every other second, and being rewarded by a sharp slap in the face by afore-mentioned scarf.

Not content with that the force-ten or thereabouts was turning every step into a wrestling match.  I am no featherweight but nevertheless had difficulty staying earth-bound and returned to the warmth and shelter of home with a gratefull sigh.

Why are we never prepared for our freakish weather in this country?  After all, we've mostly been around long enough to expect the unexpected.  I'm sure I never used to be such a whimp!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

TV Addict Again

"Well". as they used to say in the Midlands where I grew up, "I'll go to the foot of our stairs"!yet another of my heroes has bitten the dust.  What is going on?
First of all they killed, then unkilled, the lovely Tom Ward in Silent Witness, then to my utmost alarm and consternation the wonderful Robert Powell departed from Holby City and I have just seen what for me will definitely be the last Midsomer Murders, due to the retirement of John Nettles character Tom Barnaby.
It's just not fair.
In case anyone thinks I have no interest in TV dramas without gorgeous men in the leading roles, you're quite right!
No, I suppose I still have Larkrise to Candleford and Emmerdale which are so well acted and with such good storylines they can stand alone without male leads, but while Lewis is superbly acted and in the beautiful setting of Oxford it is still seriously depleted without John Thaw.
Why should male viewers have all the fun?
On a slightly more serious note, why do TV casting departments think it's OK to continue a long-running series with a replacement actor in the leading role.  It never works!
Moan Whine Whinge!

Self-Esteem

We are told as Christians that God loves us and that before we can love others, we need to learn to love ourselves.
This is a difficult concept for one with life-long low self-esteem to come to grips with.  Awful grammar I know but just as true.
As a little girl of six, I developed a squint in my left eye which was so severe the only remedy then available was to wear glasses  with a black patch over the offending eye.  Since the NHS was non-existent at that time there was no alternative 'treatment' on offer.
My mother, never one to push her own needs in the hope of preferential treatment, regarded her family as an extension of herself and we, two of my three brothers and I, all suddenly squinting hideously wore our patches without complaint most of the time.
Growing older, it became first an embarrassment, then a burden, since, while my brothers were simply accepted, I being tall (for those days), skinny and adorned with the hated patch was a prominent target for bullying.  My nickname for at least five years was 'Nelson'.
At the age of thirteen my mother finally becoming aware of the fact that I was miserable about my appearance took me to see a 'new' eye specialist who took one look at me turned on my mother and said " How long has this child been wearing a patch"? When told, he examined my eyes and pronounced the magic words, "I will operate on her eye next week, a simple straitforward procedure which she should have had years ago".
Three months later sans eye-patch, sans glasses, a smiling 14 year old was told by a teacher, "you are really quite a pretty girl you know".
I have never forgotten her words, like soothing balm on a very sore place, they were a huge boost to my non-existent ego and at many low times in my life I have brought them out and looked at them again as a necessary lift to flagging self-confidence.
This could easily turn into the longest blog in history, but perhaps more on another occasion would be a better idea.
Just one small grain of how one's self-esteem can alter a life-time's attitude to oneself and how to 'be' around other people.
Do I love myself?  No.  Can I therefore love others?  I really don't know.