Posts Tagged ‘perspectives’

Tangled

Over the last month or so, I’ve been learning to crochet.

Correction, I’ve been failing to learn to crochet.  What I’ve in fact been doing is my usual trick of taking something fun and pleasurable and making it into a life-or-death pursuit of perfection, putting my whole sense of self and (limited) self-worth in the balance. I have injected it with my bastard melodrama and anxiety.

I’ve found it hard, to say the least. Verity has seen the tears as I fail to understand diagrams or endlessly re-read the paragraphs about how crochet is “easy”, “only 3 stitches”, “kids can do it!”. Kate has sat with me and tirelessly demonstrated the same basic methods, over and over.

Today however, with a fresh mind and a little perseverance, some pennies have finally dropped.

All the books are fine, my tuition so far has been fantastic and greatly appreciated. What I’ve been doing wrong I realise, is taking it far too seriously.

Yes, me, taking something too seriously! Imagine!

What I learnt:

  1. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfection is a pursuit, and part of the fun is knowing that  there’s room to improve next time.
  2. It doesn’t have to be right. Getting something right first-time means you haven’t learnt anything.
  3. It should be fun. If you’re not having fun and enjoying it – you’re doing it wrong.
  4. It should only occupy your mind a ‘healthy’ amount. Relaxing into it, not over-thinking every single action – that’s when it started to feel good, and become enjoyable.

And here’s what I’ve achieved so far. Please don’t mock – I am very very proud of my humble beginnings.

With a little more confidence and practice, I’m going to be in a position to start making the granny squares for my blanket. I’ll be blogging everyday about my progress and thoughts during Knitting and Crochet week between 28th March and 3rd April.

So there we go, crochet eh?

Putting all the vegetables away

Hello dear reader, and welcome to the (re)turning of a well-turned leaf.

It struck me that I have recently come perilously close to taking this little corner of the Interwebz back to it’s dark, dank hole of misery and introspection.

Let’s just accept that I’m an awful, anxiety-riddled neurotic with low self-esteem and an almost comical desperation to be liked (if it wasn’t so hideously needy). Let’s just take it as read that I’m working on it, and move on.

Shall we? (proffering his arm like a young, camply glam Mr Darcy)

~#~

When I sit and think about it honestly, I realise I have loads 0f things I’m actually really good at. There. I said it. There’s no going back from that now.

I can turn my hand to many, many different things and make a reasonably good stab at it.

So, while I don’t get crochet (yet), I can still take comfort from the things I can do. Pardon? Yes crochet is hard. Yes, grannies do it, but they’ve had years to learn and they are bona-fide Witches!*

Still asking about crochet? Okay, I’ll try and explain how it is for me right now.

Let me put it this way, imagine tying your shoe-laces. Yep, not a great leap of the imagination, I grant you.

Now, imagine tying your shoe-laces without being allowed to touch your shoes. Oh, a little harder you say?

Now, imagine tying the laces on shoes you can’t touch… with a tent peg. Scared? You should be.

Finally, suppose I tell you that the shoes you’re tying the laces for don’t exist, because you haven’t woven them yet.

See? Witchcraft! 😉 Kate knows I’m just kidding here as I’m really looking forward to learning! And making a whole Crocheted blanket, gulp!

~#~

Moving onwards and upwards then, for the next few posts, I’m going to talk about something that I really am good at: Cooking. Or more precisely, the enjoyment of cooking, playing with flavours and making my own small mark on the culinary world.

Travel with me dear reader, over the next few posts, and I’ll show you my tasty world…

~#~

*Except my grannies, who are/were both lovely.

Illumination (or letting the light in)

“Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

~ Anthem, Leonard Cohen

Perfection, the pursuit of being perfect – the desire to do everything ‘right’ – I’ll be honest, it’s exhausting!

I wrote something similar in an earlier entry back in November (On Forgiveness), and I find myself looking to remember it now.

I need to remind myself of this purely because if I don’t, I so easily (and quickly!) allow myself to believe that I am a continual failure. That I continually let down, anger and disappoint those around me.

I think that the truth is different. I think I only really let down and disappoint those who care about me, by allowing myself to spiral and create a whole (imaginary!) negative world-view.

I think it’s then a sadness from others that I have allowed myself to spoil my own experiences and memories. That I preemptively take away my own ability to find fun and joy in my day-to-day life.

What I need to continue to work on is believing that just being ‘me’ with all my imperfections is okay.  I need to keep hold of a few core facts. And I need to remember that these are facts:

  • I am liked for just being ‘me’.
  • I have value and worth to others because of who I ‘am’, not just the things I can ‘do’.
  • Those who care about me are not going to wake up tomorrow and decide they hate me after all.
    – this is a hard one to get my head round!
  • Those who care about me are not thinking about me that much!
    – I am not the topic of constant negative thought I all too frequently imagine!
  • I am not perfect, I will get things wrong and make mistakes.
    – this doesn’t make me a bad person or negate the good things about me.

The good news in all this is that, apparently, people who worry tend to be the smartest, most creative people. It takes a lot of imagination to dream up all these worries!

So, hey! If nothing else, I have that on my side!

On… being wrong

When do you admit you are wrong and attempt to make amends?

  • As soon as you have done the wrong thing?
  • As soon as you are told you have done the wrong thing?
  • After you’ve had time to reflect and think about what you have done?
  • Never?

I was never born ready, but I often suspect I was born wrong.

Making mistakes  and getting things wrong comes so easily, fluidly almost. It’s a constant within me, as much as walking or breathing.

Over the course of the last few days, I’ve been thinking about the way that getting things wrong hurts, and yet is so easily repeatable. The hurt stems from not only failing myself, that I haven’t learnt from my previous mistakes, but also the sense of failing others – that I have let down those who I respect and am close to.

Why do I continue to do the things that make myself and others unhappy?

Being wrong is painful, it means acknowledging that I have failed. It all too often means acknowledging that my mistake has hurt someone I care about, that I have let them down too.

Being wrong means that in the moment I lack the knowledge, the insight to make the right choice with the situation presented to me. It means I’m faced with a situation that while it may not be new, may be different enough that applying the right knowledge eludes me.

It means that I am still learning. The mistakes I make as I learn are almost inescapable. Does it make it easier to live with?

No. It really doesn’t.

I can however, admit when I am wrong. I admit being wrong all the time. I apologise for my mistakes all the time (some might say I apologise too much).

I’ve always believed that letting others know when I am wrong is a good thing. I’ve always believed that admitting and being open about my mistakes and flaws allows me to be myself, and begin to like myself.

I’m not sure I’m doing it right though…

“When we admit we’re wrong, we create opportunities for people to accept and love us as we really are, and that’s when we can finally have loving relationships.”

I do wonder why then, even though I can be open about my flaws, I still find it so hard to believe that I am loved?

Liked even?

I’d like to throw this question out to you, if I may:

  • How do you deal with making mistakes and letting people down, and still believe that you have likeable qualities?

this is the end, this is not the end

“How come I end up where I started?
How come I end up where I went wrong?
Won’t take my eyes off the ball again,
First you reel me out and then you cut the string.”
– 15 Step, Radiohead

My previous post ‘on…becoming whole‘ is the last entry I’m going to write for a while.

When I moved my website hosting onto WordPress, I had visions that adding artwork, designs and painted models would be easier. I wanted my blog to be a place of joy and creativity, to showcase my (considerable) talents and share my art and hobbies with the world.

Instead, I quickly started diarising my thoughts, anxieties and worries on this platform. For a while, I was able to delude myself that the process was somehow cathartic. That by getting the thoughts out of my head and written down, I would be able to let go of them and in so doing, lighten my outlook.

That clearly hasn’t worked. No, rather I have used this platform to perpetuate my own negative internal thoughts. I have created a place that oscillates wildly from art and attempts at humour, to mawkish and hard-to-follow outpourings of blackness.

So, a break then.

I’ve given the site a new theme, fresh and summery (hope you approve!) ready for when I move back in.

I want to go off for a bit, and do some fun things rather than feel beholden to this electronic joy-sucker.

I’m gonna go and do fun things with my endlessly forgiving wife Verity. My best, most fun friends – Kate and Alan, Emma, Rich and Roberta, Colin and Mel, Joe and Katie.

I’m gonna re-find my creative muses and stretch my artistic boundaries.

I’m gonna do the things I enjoy – cooking and entertaining for friends, going shopping, taking walks.

In short, I’m gonna be the real me. Me, on a good day.

even jitterbug skinny legs get the blues in hot climates

My best friend Richard, who I’ve talked about previously, bought me a copy of the Tom Robbins novel “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates”, ages ago. Richard has endless patience for my mood-swings and bouts of depression, and I know that while he finds it hard to understand the mindset, he will always be there to cheer me up, in any way he can.

In fact all my friends and loved ones:

  • Kate (who really doesn’t need my crap, yet still drops everything to help me);
  • her husband Alan (who wants me to chill and get a laid-back frame of mind);
  • Colin (who sits me down and tells me how the world is, as opposed to how I see it);
  • my wife, Verity (who has put up with this for 9 years and counting);

do their best. They do their best, even though I am at times, one of the most unpleasant and self-obsessed individuals ever to crawl on this earth.

But I digress. ‘Fierce Invalids…’ has been sat on my bookshelf ever since Richard gave it to me, another volume in my expanding pile of books to read ‘some day’. Well, Saturday became that ‘some day’. I needed a diversion, I need absorption in a novel to take me out of myself, to give me joy. I need writing and wit that would stretch my brain and nourish my soul.

Tom Robbins delivers all of this. In spades.

I have been a fan of Mr. Robbins’ for many years, ever since I read “Even Cowgirls get the Blues” in my late teens. I adored the writing, the sheer unalloyed joy, verbal wit and intellect. The larger than life but utterly plausible characters. The feats of plotting, the journeys of imagination, philosophising and life-affirming, dive-in-with-your-boots-on sense of fun.

“Personally, I prefer Stevie Wonder,” confessed the Chink, “but what the hell. Those cowgirls are always bitching because the only radio station in the area plays nothing but polkas, but I say you can dance to anything if you really feel like dancing.” To prove it, he got up and danced to the news.

See? I can’t read that without smiling, and loving the Chink!

Reading ‘Fierce Invalids…’ I’ve been struck by how little time Tom Robbins’ has for depression and self-absorption. To the author, it is narcissistic, unproductive and ultimately, it just gets in the way of the main event. Having fun and living.

Show your working

To wit:

“When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. Your truly happy people, which is to say, your people who truly like themselves, they don’t think about themselves very much. Your unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwellin’ on himself and start payin’ attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence.”
— Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume)

Abso-fucking-lutely.

“People tend to take everything too seriously. Especially themselves. Yep. And that’s probably what makes ’em scared and hurt so much of the time. Life is too serious to take that seriously.”
— Tom Robbins

I agree.

“Among our egocentric sad-sacks, despair is as addictive as heroin and more popular than sex, for the single reason that when one is unhappy one gets to pay a lot of attention to oneself. Misery becomes a kind of emotional masturbation.”
— Tom Robbins (Wild Ducks Flying Backward)

No comment!!!

Tom Robbins writes with such a rich, all-encompassing love of life, that it is impossible to not get carried away with his infectious enthusiasm for existence – all the ups, downs, backwards and sideways that it brings.

As Switters’ (the main protaganist) learns from his Grandmother, Maestra:

“All depression has its roots in self-pity, and all self-pity is rooted in people taking themselves too seriously.”

At the time Switters had disputed her assertion. Even at seventeen, he was aware that depression could have chemical causes.

“The key word here is roots,” Maestra had countered. “The roots of depression. For most people, self-awareness and self-pity blossom simultaneously in early adolescence. It’s about that time that we start viewing the world as something other than a whoop-de-doo playground, we start to experience personally how threatening it can be, how cruel and unjust. At the very moment when we become, for the first time, both introspective and socially conscientious, we receive the bad news that the world, by and large, doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Even an old tomato like me can recall how painful, scary, and disillusioning that realization was. So, there’s a tendency, then, to slip into rage and self-pity, which if indulged, can fester into bouts of depression.”

“Yeah but Maestra – ”

“Don’t interrupt. Now, unless someone stronger and wiser – a friend, a parent, a novelist, filmmaker, teacher, or musician – can josh us out of it, can elevate us and show us how petty and pompous and monumentally useless it is to take ourselves so seriously, then depression can become a habit, which, in turn, can produce a neurological imprint. Are you with me? Gradually, our brain chemistry becomes conditioned to react to negative stimuli in a particular, predictable way. One thing’ll go wrong and it’ll automatically switch on its blender and mix us that black cocktail, the ol’ doomsday daiquiri, and before we know it, we’re soused to the gills from the inside out. Once depression has become electrochemically integrated, it can be extremely difficult to philosophically or psychologically override it; by then it’s playing by physical rules, a whole different ball game. That’s why Switters my dearest, every time you’ve shown signs of feeling sorry for yourself, I’ve played my blues records really loud or read to you from The Horse’s Mouth. And that’s why when you’ve exhibited the slightest tendency toward self-importance, I’ve reminded you that you and me – you and I: excuse me – may be every bit as important as the President or the pope or the biggest prime-time icon in Hollywood, but none of us is much more than a pimple on the ass-end of creation, so let’s not get carried away with ourselves. Preventive medicine, boy. It’s preventive medicine.”

“But what about self-esteem?”

“Heh! Self-esteem is for sissies. Accept that you’re a pimple and try to keep a lively sense of humor about it. That way lies grace – and maybe even glory.”
— Tom Robbins (Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates)

It really gives you a sense of perspective, doesn’t it? Well, it may not to you, but it does to me.

Tom Robbins’ words hit home like daggers. He says what I imagine my friends would want to say if they felt they could. If they felt they could without upsetting me.

A thicker skin. No, scratch that. I like being thin-skinned. I like being sensitive. I like being an emotional person.

What I don’t need to keep doing is assuming that I am despised. I can’t keeping living in fear that the people I love will abandon me or dump me. Sure, they may do at some point (they have in the past). But should I let that cripple me?

What I don’t need to keep doing is assuming that I am worthless, a failure. I have achieved so much in my life. So you don’t like it? So what? I should be rightly proud of what I’ve achieved, rather than only being able to see the stuff that hasn’t quite worked.

“All a person can do in this life is gather about him his integrity, his imagination, and his individuality – and with these ever with him, out front and in sharp focus, leap into the dance of experience.”
— Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues)

I’m not quite in the mood for dancing (yet!), but I will be soon

In the meantime, pick up a book by Tom Robbins, and just enjoy.

someone’s got it in for me

I don’t want your sympathy

I spend somewhere around 2 hours a day, almost every day, despising myself.

That’s 2 hours per day picking apart every aspect of my personality.

  • My thoughts, beliefs and values;
  • My attitude, behaviours and actions;
  • My decisions, choices and options.

Note: This is not reflection, or review, it is simple self-loathing.

Life just never turned out how I wanted it to

14 hours in a week, 56 hours in a month.

Whose life does? I don’t have a master plan, a ‘5 year’ list or anything like that. So without a plan, why do I get upset and depressed if I perceive that things haven’t gone how I wanted them to?

Without a view of how things should be, how can I discern what is incorrect?
Life is fluid, like a river. It’s easier to swim in the direction of flow, rather than try to swim upstream.  But still, I allow myself to believe that swimming upstream is the only way – fighting against the natural state of things, rather than accepting life for what it is.

Am I persecuting myself? Creating my own victim mentality? Am I constantly feeding an inner duality between the part of me that wants to be happy and the part that wants to bully me for every perceived failing?

The answer is: All of these things.

What a state I’m in

28 days across a year.

All of these are my failures:

  • My career has stalled and not advanced to the point I feel I should be at;
  • My earning potential, as  a consequence, is less than I feel it should be;
  • My talent(?) for art and creativity has never led to the successes and self-satisfaction that I want for it;
  • My financial management is, after 16 years of being an ‘adult’ still woefully juvenile;
  • My ability to derive pleasure and happiness from the moment deserts me as soon as the moment has gone;
  • I let my family and loved ones down, consistently and regularly;
  • My offers to look after, care for,  and help my friends always backfires and becomes a burden to them.


All of these are my successes:

The bully inside has got me, and taken everything away. It’s left me, bruised and snivelling and wishing I was home again, somewhere safe.

My self pitying

Since the age of 16, I have possibly spent around one and a half solid years of my life, hating myself.

My self pitying is tiresome. It takes away from who I am. It takes away from what I am. It takes away my potential to make my own happiness, and in so doing, bring happiness to others in turn.

This is what I aspire to:

“He is good to those who are good;
He is also good to those who are not good,
Thereby he is good.
He trusts those who are trustworthy;
He also trusts those who are not trustworthy,
Thereby he is trustworthy.
The sage lives in harmony with the world,
And his mind is the world’s mind.
So he nurtures the worlds of others
As a mother does her children.”
~ 49. People, Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu

Why does it seem so damn impossible to get there?

the lesser of two evils

Some days, a small success can make you feel invincible. It can make you feel as though all your efforts and experience have been valid. It gives you purpose, and meaning. It makes the statement:

“I give something to this world. What I do is valued.”

Worthwhile.

Some days, a set back or disappointment can make you feel like crap. It eats away inside you, stripping the heart of it’s feelings, the brain of it’s logic, the nerves of their senses. It makes you question your existence. It asks the question:

“What if I just disappeared?”

Worthless.

I define myself in no small part by what I do. The work I produce, whether creatively or in employment says a great deal about myself.

Everything I make has a part of me suffused through it.

Everything I make is the product of my skills, experience and world-view.

Everything I make is in effect, a snapshot of who I was at that point in time. It is a record of me as much as a photograph, or a memory.

How could it not be so?

Take away or diminish my work, and you take away and diminish a part of me.

The separation between ‘work’ and ‘self’ does not exist in my mind.

How can it be achieved? Is it something I want?

Or, do I come to terms with the fact that I may always feel this way, I may always have this reaction? Even if it harms my career, my creativity and ultimately pushes people away?

That is a frightening prospect, for sure. And yet the alternative is to care less, to stop fighting for what I believe in.

I genuinely do not know which ‘lesser’ evil to choose from.

looking for my muse

Creatively, I’m in a bit of a funk right now.

April was a really good month for being arty and exploring new ideas. In that month alone, I:

  • Created and framed a book ‘sculpture’;
  • Started (and made good progress on) a Triptych in oils;
  • Designed three really cool website samples;
  • Sculpted & kit-bashed 3 gribbly alien Enslavers;
  • Began sculpting some even more gribbly Krynoids.

So a productive (if geeky!) month.

Now I’m feeling a bit listless. Have I shot my creative wad, so to speak? Did I craft too much, too soon?

Am I metaphorically rolling on my side and lighting a cigarette?

It’s not too bad I guess, I have still been painting my little Games Workshop models. The approach has been more ‘batch painting’ than getting a master crafted finish on each one, however. Still, progress of sorts.

I haven’t been able to get to finish my Triptych, it’s still as I left it when last I posted:

panel 2

Truth be told, I’m vain and paranoid (an attractive combination…really) and need constant re-assurance that what I do is good, or even okay. Or even slightly less than rubbish.

The reaction to my paintings (which are intended for a babies’ nursery) has been so far… underwhelming.

But really, what do I expect? People are seeing unfinished work. The people who’ve seen them so far are my friends, who I would want to be honest with me.

I think the feeling is that the style is too grown-up, slightly too dark to be fun and jolly for a baby.

I get that. I really do. I’ve always gone for the twist. I seek the darker seam in any material, and I guess that then filters back into my own work.

So that leaves me with something of a painter’s block. I desperately want to get these paintings finished, but I have little creative drive to get my oil paints back out of their box and finish some paintings that will attract at best indifference, at worst horror and a ritual bonfire at the hand of the recipients.

Wanted

Missing muse.

Failing that, your tips. What do you do when your creative spark deserts you?

of monsters and heroes, and men

This week, Stephen Griffiths has appeared in court for the first time, charged with the murder of three women in Bradford. Here is a man who, when asked, gave his name as the “crossbow cannibal”(*). The case will roll on, and the tabloid papers will no doubt take a grisly delight in poring over the details as they emerge. While at this stage we cannot know his guilt or innocence (that is for the court, for the jury to decide), what we can know is that someone, most likely a man, murdered these three women, dismembered them and disposed of them as waste.

I cannot (and I am glad of this) imagine what must happen to a man to turn them into this kind of a monster. I cannot imagine how life can be so casually – so callously – taken. I cannot begin to think about the fear, pain and suffering that this bastard put those women through. It is sickening. It is obscene. The evil that men do must not be tolerated, must not be explained away as ‘society’ or ‘illness’.

Does a monster (or the potential of a monster) exist inside each of us? Is there a capacity, a series of changes, detachments and experiences that can turn someone’s son into a sadistic killer? Or are some people just evil? Pure and uncomplicated evil?

I do not know. Yet the fact that so much of the pain and suffering brought into this world is at the decisions and hands of other people, suggests that sadly, this can all too often be the case.

Cpl Stephen Walker, who died on Saturday 22nd May, is the 286th British soldier to die in Afghanistan(*). Every single loss is a tragedy. Every soldier killed is a son, a father, a daughter, a wife.

I am in awe of our armed forces precisely because they are able to do something that I know I could not do. To travel to another country, to live under the constant threat of attack, bombing and armed assault. To follow orders unswervingly and without question. To know that your actions and decisions hold the lives of your comrades and colleagues in the balance. It is a terrifying proposition. And yet our soldiers do exactly that, every day.

Every day they act on behalf of us, to uphold the decisions and orders of our Government. It is a burden they carry with honour, and one they do not carry lightly.

A hero isn’t always the one who saves the day. A hero is the one who does what is right and has the courage to be true to themselves and honour their word.

If our elected ministers took the burden of responsibility for military action as seriously as our armed forces, then perhaps less of our soldiers would be placed in combat situations ill-prepared and under-resourced.(*)

If our elected ministers had collectively taken the role they stand for more seriously, then perhaps we would not be in a situation where even now the shame and embarrassment of the expenses scandal continues to claim casualties.

David Laws, (ex) Chief Secretary to the Treasury has been the first (but probably not the last) cabinet minister to resign – just 18 days into his new job.

What Mr Laws did was wrong. Many ministers have pathetically mewed that their outrageous claims were within guidelines. It matters not whether something can be done, the bigger question is whether it should be done. MP’s on £65k a year should know better than claiming for duck castles, hiring family members as staff, profiteering on property sales – properties paid for by the taxpayer.

David Laws continued to claim ‘rent’ to the tune of £950 per month for 4 years after rules were changed in 2006, effectively banning the type of claim he continued to make. This was bound to catch up with him sooner or later. The weakness of Mr Laws it would seem, was fear. He claims that he claimed ‘rent’ for a room in his partners house so that his sexuality could be kept secret. If that was really the case, why make any claims at all? Why create a paper trail of bogus claims?

I am not going to suggest that being gay is easy or that David Laws should have come out. The pain, fear and shame of being ‘different’ is too personal, too much a part of the individual for anyone else to be qualified to pass judgement upon. Open-ness and understanding, and tentative steps towards equality are continually being made regarding sexual identity. There is still a long way to go, there is still so much intolerance and hate to be overcome.

I do not necessarily believe that coming to terms with being gay justifies claiming £40,000 rent in direct contravention of Parliamentary rules. To me it sums up not issues with sexuality, but with human weakness. The simple truth is that people are prone to fail, to make mistakes, to do the wrong thing when faced with an array of sound choices.

This week, we have had a week (like last week, and the week before that), where we can take pride in the good that people bring to the world, and we can give our love and support to those who have suffered loss. We recoil from the horror that lurks within our communities. And finally, we take lessons in humility and restraint from people (perhaps very similar to us), who had the chance to do the right thing, and who let themselves down.