Wistful

I own this very old dictionary named Cassell’s Concise English Dictionary which is still very much loved and used by me.  It’s nowhere near as large as my Oxford Concise English Dictionary but I still like to look words up in it because it has so many beautiful archaic words in it.

Anyway… so its definition of wistful is this: Full of vague yearnings, sadly longing; pensive.

Which somehow captures my mood at the moment.

Recently, when out and about with the kids, I’ve really enjoyed seeing them making a fuss over a friendly cat in the street. It’s made me remember how much I used to adore cats when I was a kid too. And it makes me want to get another cat someday. Yet it’s still not the right time for us – more for practical and financial reasons rather than anything else, but of course I can’t help but remember our dear old chap Moggy, who died two years ago, round about this time. I still miss him, and of course I can’t help feeling wistful when I see how much joy a cat can bring to a human.

So here’s to you old chap, Moggy, our very own king of cats.

Moggy and the blue fabric by Marija Smits

Moggy and the blue fabric by Marija Smits

 

Thanks to Amanda over at WriteAlm for the continued writing prompts. Much appreciated.

 

 

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Anticipation

When I was about fifteen or sixteen, I had to write a kind of list poem for my English studies. I think I called it something like ‘Nervousness’ and it was a whole list of things that made me feel ‘nervousness’. My teacher corrected me, writing that ‘anxiety’ was a better word to use. She may have been right, but I still think ‘nervousness’ has the right kind of twang to it. It seems to better describe the anticipation/anxiety that lingers in my stomach before any event of importance to me.

Anyway. My point is this: it was a long list. Now that I’m aware that I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP) the ‘nervousness’ makes sense. It is mostly about anticipation; it is normal for a highly sensitive person to seemingly ‘overreact’ to certain situations yet to come. For me, there is BAD anticipation and GOOD anticipation. Normally, I don’t like to use words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but you know what, for anxiety these words fit!

GOOD anticipation can make my stomach flutter and twist at the mere thought of something that I’m looking forward to, such as meeting with loved ones or friends; a good TV programme, a yummy meal, a chance to do some art… the list goes on.

BAD anticipation was at its peak when I did my piano exams when I was a teenager. The coming piano exam would loom large and fill me with dread, twisting my stomach into knots, days before the actual event. Then hours and minutes beforehand it was all I could think of… my stomach would threaten to empty its contents, my legs turned to jelly and my hands became sweaty. (The aforementioned sweaty hands are not good for a pianist!) I didn’t tell anyone about my anxiety – externally I must have looked okay, and I managed to sit the exams and pass. But, but, but… those nerves were dreadful. Joanne Limburg is spot on when she termed her anxiety ‘my Unbearable Feeling’ in her excellent book The Woman Who Thought Too Much. For me it is (almost) unbearable too.

I recently had to dialogue with somebody about something that I felt passionately about. It had the potential to be stressful. Days beforehand I worried about it, thinking through various hypothetical conversations, what phrases I should use… On the actual day of the dialogue I got myself into a right old pickle, crying on the loo… my stomach threatening to empty its contents, my legs turning to jelly and my hands becoming sweaty. Not good for a grown-up with a Ph.D., a mother of two, a professional…

Like most of the other situations that I’ve been anxious about though, it ended up being fine. I looked okay from the outside; I spoke calmly and it went okay. But afterwards I had a good cry. It was all so overwhelming. It’s at times like these that I hate being an HSP. Hate it.

Focussing on breathing, being mindful of the actual present moment can all help in the run-up to the stressful event, but I’ve not yet found myself to be able to fully control my nerves. Perhaps it’ll take a lifetime of trying. I don’t know.

Is there anything useful about these nerves? Well, they tell me that I care deeply about certain things. And despite putting myself into a situation that is high-stress (in my view), I can do it. I can do the stressful ‘thing’ (and cope with ‘the unbearable feeling’) and come through the other side.

I recently started Zentangling (learning from this wonderful book) and one of my favourite Zentangles is called ‘Knight’s Bridge’ (basically a checkerboard pattern of black and white squares). Getting through the stressful situation is like crossing a ‘Knight’s Bridge’. If I can see that I’m doing the stressful thing because it is of benefit to me or my family (or simply the right thing to do) then that helps. It is also good to know that there is an end in sight. Perhaps afterwards I can even feel a little ‘knightly’ for having done the thing and endured ‘the unbearable feeling’. This zentangle will be a small reminder that there will always be bridges to cross, hurdles to overcome. The ‘unbearable feeling’ may always want to tag along while I’m crossing the bridge, but who knows, maybe one day it’ll get bored and go away; and whether or not it’s there, I’m still going to cross the bridge.

 

Zentangle, featuring Knight's Bridge, by Marija Smits

Zentangle, featuring Knight’s Bridge, by Marija Smits

 

Many thanks to Amanda at WriteAlm for the writing prompts 🙂

 

 

Constellations

Of course I love to look upwards and gaze at the beauty of the stars. Looking at the constellations is a potent reminder of just how small I am; of how insignificant human life is. My troubles are as nothing to the vastness of the sky and the magnitude of the universe… How wonderful that the Creator filled the sky with all those points of light; all those colours produced by the setting sun, the rising sun, the many fantastic effects of the planets and other heavenly bodies. I cannot help but try to imagine how it felt to create all that beauty…

Yet of course us humans do not lead our lives gazing up at the stars. We turn our minds to more mundane matters; work, chores and of course, our own troubles.

How wonderful it is then to get a marvellous reminder of the wonder of human creativity and of the enormity of the infinitesimally small?

Just the other day my children and I began to do some marbleizing (marbling). According to my husband we were engrossed in this for almost 2 hours. It was engrossing! It was simply fascinating watching the acrylic inks drop onto the surface of the marbling solution, and then float and grow. We swirled the colours with wooden toothpicks, producing all kinds of constellation-like effects with the pigments, and we revelled in their beauty.

So perhaps we experienced a little of the Creator’s joy when creating the constellations. We manipulated matter and were delighted as we watched the larger effects of molecules interacting, dancing, creating new and unique constellations… We created our own universe. And it was good.

 

Marbling 'blue and white and red galaxy' by Marija Smits and family

Marbling ‘blue and white and red galaxy’ by Marija Smits and family

 

 

Multicoloured universe by Marija Smits and family

Multicoloured universe by Marija Smits and family

 

And if you’d like to have a go at marbling this is helpful: http://www.blotspens.co.uk/acatalog/Marbling.html

Many thanks to Amanda at Writealm for the writing prompts 🙂

Preserve

A week ago yesterday school broke up. On that last day of term I took my eldest (youngest in tow, as usual) to school, and the mood in the playground was celebratory. Children, and parents alike, were glad that the holidays were almost here. Yet there were tears too.

On the way to school I had noticed a mother sitting in her car, having already dropped off her child, crying secret tears. I guessed that she had a child in the last year of primary school and that this could well be her last school run.

Sigh… the last school run.

The move from primary to secondary school is a big one. There are many such moves, or transitions, in life and for those of us blessed with a sensitive soul they can be particularly fraught.

For mothers these periods of transitions — milestones if you will — are another reminder of things past… a phase in our child’s life that will never be repeated. And as much as we rejoice in their achievements and look forward to the good times in the future it is bitter, this cup.

There are many times that I’ve thought that I’d like to preserve my children, just as they are, right now. I would like this moment in time frozen, preserved forever, like the swirl of glass in a marble. For a happy childhood is a jewel indeed.

Yet it is not to be. And it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. This is what it is to be human.

But still… I long for control; to be more-than-human, to have the ability to speed up, or slow, or freeze time.

Yet it is not to be.

I can no more preserve this moment in time than a glass-blower can produce a marble without heat.

 

Marble, by Marija Smits

Marble, by Marija Smits

 

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With many thanks to Amanda at Writealm for continuing to provide this writer with inspiration 🙂

And p.s. if you want to draw a marble like mine above, go check out: http://www.art-is-fun.com/how-to-draw-a-marble.html It is an absolute treasure-trove of useful art-related stuff!

 

Clarity

Last weekend we didn’t really need to be anywhere, so we decided to catch up with the gardening. While the two little ones harvested strawberries and raspberries, waved bamboo canes around and dug holes in the soil I weeded, pruned and then thinned the carrots. This task – the thinning of the carrots — is a job I’ve done nearly every year for the past 10 years.

It’s one of those jobs that I don’t particularly like (and actually, I like most gardening jobs – especially weeding!) but as I was doing it I experienced a moment of clarity as I was struck by the thought that this task is a useful analogy for one of the major things going on in my life at the moment.

In case you’re not aware of what happens in the thinning of the carrots, it’s this: a row of small carrots (growing very densely) is thinned out by plucking out the majority of the carrots, leaving only a handful of carrots in the row. These carrots now have enough space around them to grow and thrive. I’m left with a mighty handful of small carrots which will die a death (of sorts) on the compost heap.

Carrot thinnings, photo by Marija Smits

Carrot thinnings, photo by Marija Smits

I have a lot going on in my life at the moment, and I’m aware that I’m becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I have to (or want to) do. It’s bittersweet – this realization that you can’t do everything, or see everything, or be involved in everything that you want to be. If you try to do everything it’s inevitable that many of the tasks you try to do won’t be done to the high standard you wanted them done. Or some tasks won’t get done at all. If all the carrots were left to grow I’d probably harvest a goodly amount of small carrots – not enough to make a substantial meal from, but good enough for a nibble. However, in all honesty, I want the big carrots (and no matter what funny shape they are!). I want to make a proper meal out of them.

However, I do find it difficult to pull out all those little carrots – they’re so full of life and potential – and yet if I don’t I’m not being fair on the others since they don’t get a chance to really thrive and grow and become something BIG. And then I worry; but how do I know that I’m getting this right? How do I know that I’ve plucked out the ones that should be plucked out? Maybe they’re the ones that would go on to do really well?

There’s no scientific experiment that can come to my aid. I simply trust to my intuition and go with what feels right. My eyes focus on one particular carrot and I just kinda know that it’s going to do well, and so I keep it in. Of course, when it comes to deciding on what to keep in or out of my life I spend much more time reflecting on the decisions I have to make, but ultimately, I still rely on my intuition. It’s hard to decide what you’re not going to do anymore. It’s hard to pluck those things out of your life. But ultimately, making those difficult choices brings clarity, and light, and space, and air to breathe and thrive and grow.

 

Thanks again to Amanda at WriteAlm for the writing prompts – they are much appreciated 🙂

 

Don’t Blink

 

But I did, and guess what?

My children had grown;

they were older and not so dependent on me.

Months had gone by,

possibly years,

and somehow it had happened in the blink of an eye.

 

A woman in well-worn clothes, hair unkempt,

stared back at me from the mirror. When, exactly,

did her brow become furrowed?

 

You can try all you like not to blink.

But sooner or later something will give.

 

MARIJA SMITS

 

Don't Blink by Marija Smits

Don’t Blink by Marija Smits

 

Many thanks to Amanda over at WriteAlm for the writing prompts – they are always appreciated 🙂

 

Currently Reading: Quiet

Various fairy tales, the Brambly Hedge stories by Jill Barklem, The Three Musketeers by Dumas, Core Maths by Bostock and Chandler, Organic Chemistry by MacMurray, The Professor by Charlotte Bronte, Possession by AS Byatt, The Birth Book by Sears, The Baby Book by Sears, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International, the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, What Mothers Do by Naomi Stadlen, The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer, People Skills by Robert Bolton, The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes… and now Quiet by Susan Cain.

 

All the above are books (or stories) that have strongly impressed me, moved me in some powerful way; made me understand more about the world and more about myself.

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain

As soon as I saw this book in my mother-in-law’s Christmas gift pile I was intrigued… I asked to borrow it (after she’d read it of course!) and soon began to read it. I came to the book with some skepticism. The subtitle of Quiet is ‘The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’. I wondered about the supposed power introverts wield; I wondered if this book would speak to me – after all, would I really consider myself an introvert? I’m not painfully shy, don’t really fear public speaking or find social events stressful. I just like my books, my writing, my drawing, my painting, my thoughts, my reflections… I like to learn, I like to practice my literary and artistic skills, I like to muse on the beauty there is in this world… you get the picture.

 

So… it turns out I am more of an introvert than I thought I was. This kind of niggles though, because I know what society thinks of introverts (and let’s just say it’s not all kind ;-)). I delve further into the book and realize again that this niggle has been embedded into my consciousness because of the way the world is set up (and yes, the western world is geared towards extroverts). Women, in particular, are expected to be ever-friendly, bright, happy (oh, ever so happy!) and sociable. I am starting to really relate to the author and her well-communicated ideas.

 

So by part two of the book I’m thinking that it’s okay to be an introvert. Then I think perhaps it’s even great to be an introvert (her descriptions of high-reactive or sensitive introverts hits a psychological funny-bone). I can’t wait to finish the book, to see what more she says about introverted children, effective communications and a whole load more.

 

I am empowered and elated. I’ve pieced together an awful lot about my psychological history and life in the past ten years, but this book has helped me to find yet another soul-mirror to view the landscape within…

 

I will leave you with some of my favourite sentences so far:

 

“Personal opinions are often a simple reflection of cultural bias.” (I’ve used this quote extensively this week!)

 

“The other thing Aron found about sensitive people is that they are highly empathic. It’s as if they have thinner boundaries separating them from other people’s emotions and from the tragedies and cruelties of the world. They tend to have strong consciences. They avoid violent movies and TV shows; they’re acutely aware of the consequences of a lapse in their own behavior…”

 

“High-reactive children may be more likely to develop into artists and writers and scientists and thinkers because their aversion to novelty causes them to spend time inside the familiar – and intellectually fertile – environment of their own heads.”

 

“The parents of high-reactive children are exceedingly lucky… ‘The time and effort they invest will actually make a difference. Instead of seeing these kids as vulnerable to adversity, parents should see them as malleable – for worse, but also for better.’”

 

“We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much.”

 

“Even though we can reach for the outer limits of our temperaments, it can often be better to situate ourselves squarely within our comfort zones.”

 

Finally

 

“If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself.”

 

So I will now retreat to the quiet house to get ready for bed and ready for my much-needed Quiet.

 

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Many thanks again to Amanda at writealm for the daily writing prompts (although I only seem to be able to do one a month!).  They are much appreciated :-)