Archive for April, 2017

The Art of Picking up Dropped Stitches

April 15, 2017

I am trying to separate it out, unknotting strands that become chaotically tangled.

 

Stitches dropped by the stresses I am trying to field.

 
Which do I cultivate intrinsically, cooking up a storm internally so that it’s my doing that my chest constricts and I battle for breath. I focus then. Lie flat. My palms on my abdomen. Breathe deep, I sternly tell myself. Enough self-remonstration and eventually I can feel the eagle trapped behind my sternum where its wings beat painfully morph and migrate as a soft cloud of manageable butterflies to my tummy, which obediently begins to rise and fall in smooth, deliberate, synchronization of thoughts reined, heart rate tamed.

 

I am trying to understand what I can control. What I cannot. And which responses to what I cannot control I can master better. A riddle.

 

I must – I know – lean to control the speed at which I live, hastily, always urgently trying to Fix what I mostly cannot. So that my bare foot, polish on painted toenails chipped, is pressed less urgently to the accelerator so that I do not hurtle out of control.

 

I do that alot: I do too much too quickly without thinking. It means I make mistakes. Alot. Rash decisions, commitments I cannot honour, not without dropping more and more stitches, losing the end of important threads. It means there is not enough time – despite my having an abundance of the stuff as I rattle in an outpost – to collect my thoughts and order them to compliant, tidy, rank.

 

But what of all the stuff I cannot control? And there is so much of that. A perpetual anxiety for my precious, darling, far away babies; my gently unravelling mother who one day is with me and the next a step further away so I am never entirely sure what I will deal with, a wonderful husband who is so strung with a big, unwieldy, job that I am often at a loss of how to support (you can’t Fix everything it turns out) that I must take cover from the inevitable fall out of his own stress. I worry about the past – how much have I wasted? – about the present and, especially, about the future. Which means I am Projecting which I ought not for that is useless wasteful energy spent on things I cannot know how to control, much less Fix.

 

Is this because of the person I am? The physiology of one who is wiry, woundtight, strung high? Is it because my memory of life’s side-swipes is more acute so that I catastrophize? That every dimple in my roadmap has the propensity to explode as a disaster? Is it because I expect the worst and strap myself tightly in (unlike my darling Ant who expects the best but prepares for the worst).

 

My GP says, ‘you’re Blood pressure is far too high’. So I swallow the pills he prescribes each morning and try to remember I ought not to accelerate a racing heart with real coffee. I sip decaff with distaste and wrinkle my nose.

 

I know what will order all of this. 522 words later, a single page of letters which have conformed to the shape I need them to be. Over these I have control. Over my words I have command. I must let them manipulate gentle power over me. Writing by its very nature demands solace, space, silence. It requires an emptying of headspace of the extraneous. It demands exactly the focus I need to slow my racing physiology, my scattered emotions.

 

Here, on the page, is the only place i can line them all up, give them a long, hard look, wag a finger in the direction of those that are slinking sideways and out of step.

 

I must write. I must write more.

Advertisements

Everything and Nothing

April 2, 2017

rose natal grass

When we walk on the dam, we must drive first.  We load the dogs into the back of the car, in a lather of frenzied excitement so that they rush hither and thither to make sure you’re really coming, that you are really gathering up hats and shoes.  I almost never wear shoes. The dogs know something’s in the offing when I lace sneakers up. This morning the sky is hugeblue. Huge. And clean; rinsed of cloud.

We whip out on the new ribbonsmooth tar road, the rose Natal grass softly fringes its hard edge and blushes in clouds of pink.

It is a beautiful, beautiful day.

********************************

This time a week ago I was a long way from dams and dogs and acacia trees fat and green at the thin edge of a slender wedge rainy season – half what we had last year and not nearly enough. I was in the Capital. Stocking up. Groceries. Butter. Prescription meds. I had my hair cut, my toenails painted so that my feet would look prettier than they normally do in their birthdaysuitbareness (given usual absence of shoes. See above). Ant told me to try not to gawp in supermarkets, he laughed as I stopped dead at the entrance of shiny new Food Lovers Market, my empty trolley coming to an abrupt halt; the shelves dripped Aladdin jewels of multi-hued fruit and veg that we never see in the outpost, ‘close your mouth’, he said, ‘you’re giving yourself away’.

The country mouse comes to town, I thought.

********************************

At night, when I cannot sleep, I dig my earphones deep and listen loudly in the secret silence to the murmur of far away voices. Podcasts a boon, carrying a distant world into mine. My latest favourite: the BBC’s Book and Authors, I love Harriet Gilbert and her guests’ dissection of a Good Book. I discover many new joys here, in the dead hours: Imtiaz Dharker‘s poems and Jenny Offill’s, Dept. of Speculation, a sparse novel about marriage and motherhood, with language deliciously taut so that you know she has carefully weighted every single word and wasted not one.

‘The baby’s eyes were dark, almost black, and when I nursed her in the middle of the night, she’d stare at me with a stunned, shipwrecked look as if my body were the island she’d washed up on.’

********************************

Talking words and books and language, I shouldered my way onto my Creative Writing course. I bullied, begged, cajoled, leaning hard against a door until I got my foot in and then wriggled my way through. I start in October. Course books already gather on my desk and the exercises they prescribe read as keys to unlock the block that descends too often now, in the void in which I tend to rattle.

********************************

Best of all, my Hat is home. Briefly. For Easter. Long, lean, all grown up, half a head taller than I but small enough still that I can envelope her in an embrace and inhale the sustaining scent of motherhood.

**********************************

I began this blog ten years ago. What a journey. Thank you all for keeping me company x