The inside of my head can be a strange place. Sometimes the lights flicker and go out, sometimes the music is WAY TOO LOUD and sometimes I’m just standing in the middle of it saying,’Ye gods, I have to do something about this paintwork.’ Mostly, I’m glad to report, it’s a relatively homely place with big windows, lots of natural light and a gzillion plants.
It’s to this place that I’ve retreated following my most recent bout with the what-the-hell-am-I-doing virus.
It quickly became clear that I was in deep overwhelm. Here’s the thing, I work for an organisation that tries to stop the barbaric treatment of whales and dolphins by humans. I work in the comms department, not the science/policy team, but we have to know most of what they know so that we can communicate it to (potential) supporters. Much of it never goes further than our walls because we’d be buried under a crowd of people screaming at us for ruining their day/life. But we see it. And I feel it. That’s the thing. Without my armour, which I mislaid in about 1973 and would be way too small for me now anyway, I feel it all.
Then there’s Mr Wildness who is himself active in conservation and welfare circles. He’s a trustee of the League and a founder of Birders Against Wildlife Crime. There aren’t a lot of laughs coming out of either of those places.
And of course I’m deeply in love with all things canine and watch with awe and love as very special people work to rescue and save dogs needing help. But again, before the happy ending (if there is one) there’s a whole lot of horror.
I live here, in beautiful countryside that connects me to Life and earths me in the most wonderful of ways but nature is not Disney. Nature – often in the form of man – can be harsh and cruel unless you are able to detach with a Buddhist monk-like ability that I do not possess. Spring is breathtaking to look at but oh so fragile. So many babies, so many risks.
Take the baby squirrel in the beech tree outside our house who loves to run and play with leaves on the other side of a lane currently filled with film crew vehicles and rubber-necking spectators’ cars. In full view of our neighbours’ murderous cats. I doubt he’s even still alive, and rightly or wrongly I feel that like a knife to my heart. There were sweet ducklings on the moat that have probably already fed hungry young foxes. And those cats. The other night I walked home with the dogs, in the dark except for the spooky light of a halogen floodlamp over the film company’s ‘base camp’. I looked up to see, silhouetted by its glow, one of my beloved Jimley Jackdaws (jackdaws that nest in our chimneys, referred to as jimleys by five year old Evie) standing on the edge of a neighbour’s chimney stack, looking in clearly agitated, as smoke poured out of it. The night was cold, the people have a young baby and only the wood stove to heat their cottage so of course they lit the fire. I realised with a heart plummeting into my boots that the jackdaw probably has babies too. In that chimney stack. I walked into the house and burst into tears. For all of it. For bloody all of it. And my skin felt red raw from the constant gentle lashing of real life.
So this is where I am. Thinking about how I learn, if it’s possible, to deal with this stuff. Or to come to terms with the fact that I will always feel this way because I can’t turn away. It’s not just ‘nature’, it’s the never-ending extended family issues…the shitty world news that I can’t seem to escape…the powerless witnessing of my daughter walking through another valley of her early life story, and watching her heart crack open while all I can do is hold her.
I can do this. We all do. You do. You may well have far worse to deal with, I’m pretty privileged in a lot of ways and I never forget it. But those of us with no armour have these spells, right? When it’s very nearly Just Too Much.
Here’s how I’m attempting balance. I am doing only what makes me happy. Happy without attachment to shoulds and coulds. Without attachment to achievement or ‘success’. Without attachment to fixing anything – that’s a biggie for me.
There’s a lot of unattached happy on the internet. Lots of chances to be mindfully mindless, ha! And so I find myself on instagram, on Pinterest and eyebrow deep in interior design blogs. I am indulging in a whole lot of mental pleasure for the sake of it, knowing all the time that I am rooted in the dirt and pain and darkness. Knowing all the time that both sides of the coin are needed for it to carry its real value. Once I’m feeling more balanced I can address the whole what-the-hell-am-I-doing question. Not before.
This morning I went to Professor Google with a question about how to clean vintage metal and found my new favourite blog. I’d read back through several posts of design, great writing and laughs before the writer mentioned dogs. Naturally I clicked through and found this wonderful story. I recommend you read it and then check out Linus. Then the rest of the blog. Especially the whole downstairs bathroom thing.
And that’s my good deed for today.