New Country

As I stand at the edge of the fuzzy terrain that is to be my life for the next few months (to indefinite land and beyond!), I have to confess that I feel rather bewildered.
All excitement has leaked out of my bones and I am now just hunkered down with my doubts and agonies for company (standard Melancholic baggage), wondering what the hell I am doing!

 

I am told that emotions like doubt, loneliness, abandonment and grief are fairly standard companions on the long trek to dream accomplishment (as a sense of security and assurance hightails it, double-time, in the opposite direction) but where is the great bravado that I thought would initially bolster me along, step by step?  Where the glitter and gold and that sense of achievement-not-yet-tasted-or-defined to applaud me on my way?  Instead I feel the need to reach for a tall, stiff drink…

 

I found this truth in the pages of a novel the other day – life is a series of events that you ultimately face alone.  Even if someone chooses to walk alongside you on the path for a bit, you cannot escape the reality that it will be your fears and concerns that you carry and do battle with and no human can lug that load for you.

 

It is evident that reaching maturity, or the act of growing up, is why people’s skin gets leathery and their teeth stained– they have faced many of life’s weathering seasons and they have bitten off and chewed reality by the mouthful.  It can only leave them changed.

 

I do not feel positive.  The world economy does not make me feel positive.  But I have to trust my God.  Three years ago, He popped a sentence neatly into my brain as I was driving around town, blubbering like an idiot over a recent breakup.  I felt a failure.  I felt like a great Reject candidate.  We Melancholics don’t do grief at half steam, I was getting good existential mileage out of this one.  As I turned a corner God said to me, ‘Jean, I will not let you build your life on another man’s dreams.’ This was a sobering revelation to me as I had no dreams of my own.   It was an empowering one because it meant I should.  And being able to mentally shout at The Ex, ‘Scroof you buddy, I’m not supposed to build my life on yours anyway!’ well that felt pretty good too.

 

It is three years (and quite a few heartbreaking relationships on) and God’s statement still stands.  He wants me on my own two feet.  I would prefer to cling.  He wants me to realize those things I have capacity for.  I want security.  It is not fair dammit!  It really isn’t.  But it cannot really be changed at this point in time, so I am gearing up to enter above mentioned, fuzzy terrain and do it anyway.  It is clear I have to…

Morrissey Lass in China-land

I’m just back from another day of adventurously sweating through the streets of Beijing, China.  Heat takes itself to the next level on this continent, with even seasoned Beijingers looking flustered.  The men like to hike their tops up to just above their bellies to let any form of breeze cool them down and the women wear lovely, loose-flowing clothes (I’m looking quite a frump in comparison) and short short shorts, skirts or dresses, which is all good because the women all seem to have great legs in this joint.  For the most part, women in Beijing are lovely.   They blow all the stereotypes into smithereens – many are tall and slim.  I have put this down to all the walking everyone does.  And the healthy food that makes up their staple diet.  And all the sweating.

China has probably been the last place on earth I have ever wanted to visit.  The thought of getting lost amid the sea of strange faces and foreign culture has always put me off.  How narrow-minded of me!  Although the Chinese population is immense and there are always people around (no matter the time of day), I am not pushing my way through crowds of bodies all the time, as I thought would be the case.  The saving grace for all of this is that there is no such thing as African time around here (thank goodness!).  No one dawdles, everyone is adept at weaving their way around – this includes taxis (often to be seen driving in the wrong lane towards oncoming traffic, so as to avoid pedestrians, bikes, scooters etc.), pedestrians weaving to avoid taxis and bikes/scooters and bikes/scooters to avoid everyone else.

What seems to be a designated pedestrian walkway is often not, so my mom and I are learning to dodging vehicles/scooters/bikes all the time too!

The best partof Beijing for me has been the food.  Everything is a communal eating experience in this country, which is lovely.  You can often cook your own food at your table (in a restaurant) as a family/group of friends.  Simply order raw veggies such as cabbage, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and all sorts of green food plants I had no knowledge of, along with thinly sliced beef, chicken, tofu and grill it Mongolian style on the hot coals in front of you (with everyone cooking and grabbing as you go) or boil it in a Hot Pot of Tom Yum sauce.  This makes eating quite an adventure.  That and the chopsticks!  Each meal is accompanied by rice noodles, plain noodles or rice and the yummiest of sauces.  For Hot Pot you get sesame seed paste and coriander to dunk your lemon-grassy-spicey food item in, for the coal-grilled Mongolian spread a completely different sauce.  Dunk in sauce or paste, place in mouth and let the flavours go BOOM!

People like to be around each other in China-land.  In the evenings they congegrate in the city centre to learn Chinese-style line dances, or they skip with ropes to music, or they can be seen writing things on the pavement with long-handled, sponge devices – the point being for the writer to focus and relax more than anything permanent to be done because the water they use to make their mark evaporates within a few minutes.  Jiang Wei tells me that many people in the city dont have the luxury of air conditioning, so they often take walks after dinner time to cool down and enjoy the night life. 

All in all, it has been a positive experience so far…

Forest

I get the distinct feeling these days that I am just clear of a particular dense and complex forest in my life – as if I have bolted out into a clearing at an increased pace, but being so accustomed to the intensity and focus required for clambering, crashing, maneuvering and crawling over and under undergrowth and the thick roots of trees as I am, I have only just recognized the blue sky above me and that I am free.

Yes, this is how I feel. And so, as I come to a standstill in this clearing and about-turn to face ‘from whence I have come’, I feel relieved and grateful and proud. I made it! There is real sweat on my brow. Real grit on my face.

But I am also distressed and frustrated, so hunker down to ponder momentarily… Why did it take me so ruddy long?!

Why was I trapped in that shadowy, perplexing, distressing, body/heart-grazing place for so ruddy long?

In this forest I have lost and held (in that order) two sweet boys- nephews – and have ached along with two who tried to muster enough to go on, amidst the confusion, anger, emptiness and greyness that ensued.

We have lost our way and found it, lost our way and found it.

In this forest, I have been a fool with my heart. I have given it over to be crushed and bruised. I have not been careful with it. My own doing. My own desires, misunderstandings and misinterpretations and applications of love and life.

I have let it (my heart) drag behind me for many a mile and gotten twigs lodged in it. There are some things missing, some things added. It is back in my chest now. It just feels different – sits different – wary and street smart.

In this forest I have hated me, misunderstood me, clawed around for life’s meaning, tasted the ashyness of dulling disillusionment…

I have seen people rise and people fall. In this forest I have also heard God’s call the loudest – from off in a direction I did not expect, and then more intimately and tender than someone, stuck and hating in a forest, really feels they deserve. It has bought with it rushing relief, healing, rest, redemption…

As I sit in this ‘now’-clearing I feel stronger. I feel decided. I feel grounded. I realize now that the brush had been thinning around me for some time, I had been gradually catching the soft stroke of sunlight across my face.

I’m only just in the clearing, so its time to savour it. How long will it last? But why did it take so ruddy long? Maybe there is no way to reach the clearing without the forest? No such thing as clear-cut pathways. Maybe life is about what we lose as much as it is about what we gain. And we learn to be better built for it. Maybe twigs-in-hearts is par for the course? Maybe loss and turmoil should be embraced? Maybe all of it is our making, so we hang in regardless? So the length of time is inconsequential, as long as we learn what we need to learn along the way.

I have hunkered down long enough. Time to stand, turn, walk. Enjoy a new space.

My ‘Favourite’ theme :P

I was reflecting the other day on the fact that I will be 29 this year.

29!!!!

One of my older lady friends was chatting with me a few months back about my life options (I was in another tizz about prospects – Existential Crisis and I are solid mates) and quite soberingly pointed out, ‘and you know Jean, you are not young any more…’ I was going to loudly protest. But the objection rose and then died swiftly in my truth-squeezed throat.

I might drive a student car (rusting, leaking oil, overheating, poorly maintained) I might still eat like a student (tin of tuna tipped onto boiled potatoe, generous dose of mayo and go!), I might still housesit for spare cash, I might still drink cheap wine and long for the days when I will be ‘old enough’ to splash out on a 50 buck bottle without wincing and wondering which column in my budget will now do without, I might still rent a flatlet and own very little of the furniture in it… but truth is, them student days are far behind me.

If you look on a timeline, that is.

I sometimes feel that, on a few levels, I am still sitting on my pony at the starting gates, whilst others, hearing that solid clang of gate metal crashing open, have charged off freely into the natural order of things (wedding bells… the sound of a hammer belatedly driving nails home into a self-assembled baby cot…the sound of a bond being approved…the sound of a two-income, moms car purring down the driveway…the sounds of Woolworths products singing in the fridge…)

Fortunately there are other souls around me who have equally taken to picking the grit disbelievingly out of their eyes as they watch the clouds of dust rising up ahead of them between their steeds’ ears.

We all know how humbling this experience can be.

‘Have fun guys!’ We holler at the dust particles ahead of us, and then turn to shrug at each other and get on with tea. Although it’s not quite like that, really. There is only so much time a person can spend longingly looking through metal gates at what ‘could be’, or up ahead at people cooing over their children, or their new home etc. before it becomes unhealthy. And there is only so much time a person can spend bitching about still straddling a bored pony at the starting gate.

No, then the Wild West theme music needs to kick up and exploration needs to be done as to what else one can jolly well do that is of equal substance as the dreams you have had to put on a (now cold) back-burner.

yeeha.

Eyes Wide Open – the attempt

Tis the season to change the previous three years of sickening habit, tralalalala- la-la-lala.

For the past few years I have found my soul crawling towards the festive season with a sense of gnawing and perceived lack.

There is something about this time of year that acts as a huge spotlight onto ones social circumstances.

My previous plan of action to stave off this glaring, intrusiveness was to long for company, find company, date company and then be dumped by or dump company by April/May.

Siiis!

I can feel my emotional sphere already starting to gear up for this. Let’s call it the Prowl. Part of me would like to: that small part of my soul that believes that such behaviour is the Answer.

Fortunately the penny has dropped for me: I do not long to scrape my innards from off of the floor where they have been dropped by a significant other, nor do I want to subject anyone else to a similar experience!

I was listening to a man called Arthur Burke the other day. He challenged his audience to 90 Days of looking for what IS versus 90 days of grumbling about what isn’t.

The minute I find my melancholically-inclined brain steering me towards my list of longings, I need to zap it with a few minutes of stretching my eyeballs wide enough to take in the things I might not be seeing. It is good medicine, really. Because my brain that has been wired to think ‘without this and that I cannot possibly be happy’ needs to be told that it is trusting in pure nonsense really.

There are some glaring delights right in front of my face that i need to learn to perceive, enjoy and embrace. Here’s to getting on with it!

Colour My Grey

Amy knew about walking the line.  Even as a child, she had watching eyes that took in every detail.  The mood of a place seeped quickly into her bones.

She lived by the disapproving contour of her mother’s mouth and the constant furrow between her father’s eyebrows.  She died by the way they would so quickly turn away from her to other things.

Amy played carefully, ran carefully and laughed carefully.  She dreamed in limited colours – aware that her palette had not been graced with a full range of shades and hues.  She guarded those colours she did have – all too aware of what pitch black felt like to the touch.

She could not help the stabs that pierced her gut, however, each time their smiling faces caught her eye.  She envied the swirl of bright material around their ankles, the hop, skip and jump to their walk.  How their hands fit so well into the hands ever ready for theirs.

She would busy herself then with straightening what might have moved skew with the longing: each wistful emotion was carefully captured and soberly placed deep within her small, tight heart.  She kept her desires small, her dreams small and her expectations smaller.  She bit manageable pieces out of her life.  She chose to love inanimate things and maintained suspicion towards the living.

One day, however, the seams to her skin, her soul, her heart began to fray.  Thin, hairline cracks appeared across her resolve.  She felt the break coming.  It felt like dying to her.  She balked against it.  Clawed for stable ground.  She knew how ridiculous she looked- stretching in too many directions after the scattering pieces.

It was then that Love stepped in.

And Love was knowing.  He hunkered down to her level, looked her straight in the eye. She could see His laugh lines.

“What do we have here?”  Love asked.

“Amy.”  She mouthed, overwhelmed with relief.

“And what can I do for you Amy?” Loved asked.  She knew that it was more for her benefit than His.  She knew that He knew her.  He was asking to be let in.  He was in no rush either.  He leaned up against the wall with her, waiting.

“Um…”  Amy bit her lip and pointed to the seams undone, the structures collapsed, the resolve gone.

“Messy, isn’t it?”

Amy shut her eyes tightly and nodded- feeling an ache large enough to engulf her.

Oh, God, You are Big Enough, aren’t You?  She sneaked a peak at His profile.  It was impossible to dislike Him.
I have been looking for someone Big Enough my entire life, God.  No one has been Big Enough.  Not one.  I have had to do it all alone.

Love pulled her close.  She trusted Him!

“I am now going to ugly cry.”  She warned Him, feeling the disappointment of years begin to rise.

After a long time, He stood up, pulling her to her feet.  Out of nowhere an palette appeared, dotted with wet, resplendent colour.

Handing her a paintbrush and an easel, He began to smile.

“Now, dear one, it is about time to colour your grey…”

Waterboy

I have always admired those people who can just get on with dreaming…

Whilst i have spent much of my life mired down in uninspired apathy, there have been plenty people around me who have somehow known how to do Something with their lives.

In my teen years, these people were, for the most part, the ones who played sport at school and/or had hobbies, and/or joined clubs and then became the chairperson.  They got along with people and constantly  generated stuff (relationships, productivity, admirably great vibes) around themselves, leaving others to make voodoo dolls in their likeness out of the greenest of envy.

Whilst they were Hare-On-Redbull, I was Less-Than-Tortoise:  one foot stretched out in the general direction of forward (the concept to move being present) but with neck turned slightly to the side as i munched on whatever around me was worth munching.

It probably has much to do with personality- i find energy from being alone, doing Jean things, whilst they seem to find it through their interactions with the world.  I find the world an intimidating place- for them its their playground: a place to make an impression.  The worlds material are theirs to mold to their use.  I dont know what to do with these if i find myself with them in my hands!  Pretty much like a hot potatoe, i feel comfortable passing them along…

There is a lady I know who dreams as she goes.  Mid conversation or step a new concept will alight itself upon her creative mind and she will roll with it.  It often looks like chaos as it unfolds, but, flip, the outcome is inspiring!

As i reflect on these enviable types, i note that my type often disqualify themselves from the Great Game and opt to sit on the sidelines, munching popcorn & offering the Team water and refreshment as they need it.  We dont believe in our own game.  Or we believe we need to play the same game as others do- and cannot quite seem to be able to do so.

But there is a verse in the bible that is ringing truer in my ear the older and more frustrated I become : “My people perish from lack of vision”.

This verse refers to mankind’s need, in general, to have purpose and meaning in life.  If we cannot see hope up ahead, we run aground and wither away under a killing sun (sorry, i have a flair for the dramatic).

I am a meaning Junkie- the smallest moments are picked apart for significance and i often find myself battling waters of depression in a small boat because not all moments ARE significant.

This is because i am the frikken waterboy! With no game of my own to play.  And what’s more, I often lose touch with the Coach who, if checked in with, would actually be pointing at a field that i have freedom to frolick in as creatively and inspiringly as i like.  He stands at its sidelines, encouraging me to Get On With It.

There are no ‘dudds’ on planet earth.  No one who, when birthed, God looked down upon and thought, “Shucks, i wonder what to do with THIS one…?!”  No one who was born without the ability to Dream and realise these dreams.

No, life and circumstance has made us Waterboys.  Poor self esteem.  A lack of belief in ourselves.  A lack of belief in the Goodness of God.  All the above and plenty more can be attributed to our self chosen Waterboy status.

After my EX ex dumped me and I realised I had become a tag along, after a long life of prior tagging-along, God whispered in my ear, “I will not let you build your dreams on the life of another.”  Pretty profound stuff for a tag along, i tell you!  Pretty hard to believe too!

I do not think that this statement is limited to me alone.

God has placed something inside each one of us that we have every right to pursue. It’s not STUPID, whatever you or i have in our Dream Box.  Its not UNATTAINABLE either.   Someone told me this yesterday as i clung to my tiny boat again.

Im choosing to believe!