Monday, June 23, 2014

Difficulties and Danger

 Tokerau Beach -

This picture was discovered on a search for an image to illustrate, light.

When I arrange to travel anywhere usually I travel heavy, with far more than I need. Lately, I make do with far less. This economy made this trip's planning and execution far easier. My bag is small, the clothes summery, they roll up so easily in there. Everything is less. I keep mentioning it, the novelty stuns me. One large paper notebook, not five small ones. I plan to get a tablet, a small e-device, not to take the laptop, (which will be locked away at a friend's house). Although buying a tablet that works has been an issue. My wondrous e-expert friend tells me, however, you do get what you pay for, so I'm returning the one that was cheap and shuts down without warning all the time. If only the trader on trademe would just give me a refund, however, they seem not to want to do that. It does not work, I can get a refund in that case.

Ah yes, stress. It's abounding.

People are staying in my house, so someone's keeping an eye on things. That's one less stressful thing to think about, naturally, I tell myself. Tick, tick, tick. I'm on list five. It's taken five lists to get things done. At one stage I had four lists at once. They became the one master list. Now it looks terrible so I need a new one. Only six days to go. List six, is that enough? Will I make it? Maybe I should just stay home? Lists, worries, luggage, why o why did I want to do this?

Do you see my issue? I still do not know how to lighten up my feelings and imaginings. As usual, my inner world is enormous, unwieldy and affecting me in ways I find difficult to take. If my emotions were a suit of clothes too big for me, I could have them taken in. Maybe this blog will serve in some manner to take some inner tucks and pleats, to cut away excesses of temperament?

Writing is always good. Then editing helps with clarity. I usually write this blog four or five times, then edit three or four times. This all assists me to see what I'm trying to do, think, believe, recognise as feeling, and get to, often I'm surprised or enlightened, at the least, well, yes, lighter. It changes everything, writing, it's a process of alchemy, making treasure from nothing. Like my one-time favourite perfume, le jardin de bagatelle, a garden from not much....

Do we take our inner world or does it take us? That's the question. Mastery of thought, while useful and a great skill to possess, (when we make our thoughts rule our heart, not the other way round), well, that only goes so far. 

Feelings can at times overwhelm and inspire us so we follow them idiotically, and do things we know are illogical, or strange, but carry out these emotion-driven actions anyway. Writers have famously travelled across oceans and continents, for instance, in search of someone they love. Robert Louis Stevenson did this. The Poetry Foundation says, "Many of his journeys were searches for climates which would ease his poor health, but he also had an innate wanderlust. His trip to America in 1879, however, was made to pursue a woman." This trip almost killed him, but eventually he found the happiness he'd sought. I worry upon reading this kind of alarming account if this journey of mine could adversely affect me. It seems to have done so already. 

I wake up in a panic thinking I have not got something I have definitely got, (the latter only realised upon waking properly and crying a while in distress). Then I worry I need more of things I knew yesterday that I had enough of, (stockings, leggings, jewellery, first aid kit).... then I think no friends there will want to see me at all this time. It's all a trick. Pathetic, I go on. The 'no one cares' idea is not an unfounded fear. One "friend", who admittedly I'd only known a few years online, not like the others who I've known 14 years now, told me after I'd booked tickets to San Francisco that he could not accommodate me after all, and does not like me now. But I realised later that was probably payback for my not doing what he wanted for him. Obviously he is no friend, then, sadly. Friendship is not based on making other people do what we want them to do, for us, whether they want to or not. I keep telling myself that kind of thing, over and over, sorting through probables and possibles, looking for reason as if it's the only thing I definitely have to pack. "Don't panic, if you think about it, things make sense. You are organised. It's okay." Uncertainty, is though an enormous pool of mental quicksand and my inner landscape seems to be including far too much of it.

Why do I bother zipping about the globe? I ask myself. Aotearoa New Zealand is supposedly safe, I know many great people here, have a house in the biggest city near the city centre, a garden, contacts, my family are here.... Why am I running off to an immense place I barely know, especially with the world apparently going to every kind of hell and then some?

This whole trip this time is driven by feelings too, where's the logic and sense? My love for a country and its people, a place not my own at all, is pulling me back there as surely as if I am held by some kind of rope. Had I fallen down a mountain, are they hauling me back to safe ground? Who knows. At the same time, I know, I do not belong there for practical reasons, my age and health being such I could not afford to pay the medical bills I could need in the near future. But, oddly, madly, I have to go back and check that is true, in case I could've moved to amrka after all and not known.

Most likely, this will simply be another charming visit, and of course different to the last time, nothing is ever the same. We sometimes have to live with not being able to have what we wish for too, that's life. For many years as a child for instance, I wanted to be Greta Garbo, instantly. Also, I longed to be able to run and climb like other children did, but I was never all that athletic. Now I am making a trip which is to bring me closure, I guess, as the amrkns say, and therefore the whole procedure is tinged with sadness. So of course I am a bit teary. But I believe in facing the truth, it's infinitely rewarding. Learning so much.

I wrote a poem called The Topography of Tears, recently. I cannot post it here, because it has been sent to the excellent, preeminent NZ literary magazine Landfall, and they may publish it, (here's hoping), but the poem was inspired by an article about the many differences in tears, yes, from weeping. I must thank Pamela Gordon for posting the article originally on facebook, (her valuable work as literary executor for Janet Frame, our most distinguished writer, means Pamela is constantly busy, but anything that takes her attention is often highly rewarding to investigate).

Tears from laughing until crying, which puts me in mind of the view of a harbour city from the air.
I've thought before that tears are not just a reaction to something, but also a process of profound change. The evidence of how different tears may appear microscopically could affirm this. Rose-Lynn Fisher "...studied 100 different tears and found that basal tears (the ones that our body produces to lubricate our eyes) are drastically different from the tears that happen when we are chopping onions. The tears that come about from hard laughter aren’t even close to the tears of sorrow." So I am telling myself that all the tears I produce lately as a result of the stress and emotion attached to this trip are a process of change for me, and once I am through that things will be better.

I'm also driven to mention the controversial Tate Prize short-listed 1999 work, The Bed. A messy, tissue-condom-dirty-knicker-and-book-and-whatnot-strewn bed of the artist, Tracey Emin. For those who perhaps do not feel much at all deeply, it appeared ridiculous, self-indulgent, and even mocking of what art should truly stand for, but I instantly understood it. My gratitude felt boundless. Not that usually my bed looks that way, let me hasten to assure the reading public, but it has done, and may well do again. Lately, it's been a little like that, I'm in a turmoil of leaving and wondering, and grief - any emotional experience brings back all kinds of memories, and then also, there is my marvellous imagination. I find it easy to imagine disasters, trouble, and ruin, the work now is to stop that, but hey, meanwhile....

The Bed by Tracey Emin

That someone, like Emin, in such a vulnerable position, (as a woman, an artist, and wanting to 'make it'), would admit to this apparently crazy, messy emotional state, and not only that, act like she deserved a prize for showing an everyday object proving her activity, enthralled and excited me. The Bed said, "People make a mess, we live in states of flux, we are not people in magazine photo shoots, human beings are allowed to feel things deeply, to indulge those emotions too, to forget to tidy up sometimes, to have sex, to leave the bed unmade afterwards, to admit we have emotions, feelings are not a weakness, they make us, partly, who we are, and are also unavoidable." That is my take on it, anyway.

Writing about tears and crying feels rather taboo, oddly. We all cry sometimes, but in western culture we tend to see so little of weeping and sorrow, don't we. Coming mainly from cold countries, paler people perhaps found grief and so on too energy-consuming, and against the principles of, "work hard, stay alive", we could think? Many traditions and habits in our way of life do not always suit the present day, however, I have to say. If we did spend more time examining why we are sad, and seeing how we could be changing to accept some truth or new circumstances, then we could adapt and live with far more flexibility, and eventually, joy.

Even our feelings which we master and control, are still there, they remain with us, a part of our everyday life - just at a low hum instead of a loud roar, a torrent, or crash, or sparkling fireworks. 

Surely when we are more aware of when we need to let go, and just go through some extreme, we are better off, though? Allowing repression, and curling into obedience to some imagined authority re what we feel like, is the true insanity; no one else ever knows what our true self is, or what our real thoughts and feelings are, that's the human condition, aloneness. If we cannot admit any true feelings and ideas which we harbour within, to ourselves, however, then we are lost and flailing about in pretense, or ignorance, or both. 

It is far better to find ourselves alive and work through intense feelings, if we can. A whole journey in itself, when we travel through our inner world, and we're changed by it. Then we may live more shallowly again, but with improved knowledge of who we truly are, with this gift, this wonder, our one precious life. How lucky every single person has to be, to have this, surely?

And so it is I arrive at a realisation after three hours writing - whatever happens it is full of wonder and learning, experience, whether it be good, bad, in between, o the mix. Writing's helped me again to go on, to get to work and finish marking student papers - still not done correctly, according to my moderator. There is a form to fill in again, and a mark to check the maths on, that kind of thing. Then I will sort the packing again, write perhaps to the trademe man who does not want to give me a refund, or, by some miracle, deliver the faulty tablet to him, with the refund already paid? Then too I must buy those trees for this travel, my second batch, in South Australia, where they really need them.

O yes, and I must write another list, sixth time lucky, I hope.... and pass the tissues, it's all just a bit too much again. Ha.

Thanks for reading. Please do comment - I'd love to hear from you.

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