Growing green things

The first plant type things that inspired me enough for ownership were cacti. I was in my early teens and I loved the strange mystery of this previously unknown plant. I had several of them. I remember one afternoon hitting upon the most marvellous idea that if I put a huge block of ice on the cacti tray then it would melt slowly providing watering for several days. By the evening (it was summer) the tray and my window ledge had flooded. I learnt how fast ice melts which was likely a useful thing to know. I discovered several years later that cacti are more likely to bloom if they are not regularly watered. So my efforts concerning their daily deluge were somewhat redundant to begin with.

The next thing that I grew was a kombucha mushroom. I was given my ‘starter’ mushroom by my reflexologist. I bought the required bowl (this was at age nineteen, this bowl lived a long and happy life until my daughter’s dad managed to drop it on the floor some twelve years later. RIP epic bowl, may you be resting in kitchen paraphernalia heaven) and all the other bits too. The first mushroom worked beautifully, and the ‘tea’ that was produced was most excellent. The second time my mushroom went mouldy. I did not pursue this a third time, as the prospect of actively growing mould in my bedroom, was not something I had any wish to repeat. (Cue the miniature drawers on my Sindy Kitchen, in which I crushed some grains and mixed them with water. I then left the moosh to grow. I was five and I can still remember the acridity of the smell now). I also grew a crystal (it was blue), potatoes at the end of the garden (those things keep coming back, year after year..) and an assortment of other plants and malarkey. It was fun.

More recently I have grown little peppers (mass bug infestation, despite the daily leaf washing.. how did my world come to this?), basil (bug infestation and leaf mould, double win! One afternoon I could take no more and chopped them all to oblivion, well not oblivion per se, more like stumps, I chopped them to stumps. Now they sit near the window, quietly judging), spider plants (things of such radiant bug and mould free existence!) and my aloe vera. The Aloe Vera is my kitchen monster. She is radiant, forthcoming when I burn myself and is my most favourite plant in my house (the basil knows this, its why it only very quietly judging). It sort of scares some of my friends, but that’s okay, Aloe doesn’t judge.

Ever since I can remember I have grown things. This often comes with contention, but this is met from a place of love and unholy stubborness to will something into existence. Watching seeds sprout, and plants grow is something quite magical. Watching mould develop is somewhat disgusting but still incredible none the less. Nothing is constant and everything is open to change.

Map Point. What inspires me to change?

 

 

 

A little nervous

Tomorrow I register for university. I am about to start my master’s degree. And whilst I know that this is utterly the right move and will be amazing, I am also scared. What if I cannot live up to my own expectations?

My brother was talking today about the lives that we had planned for ourselves when we were younger. Aged around eleven, I envisaged a life that involved going to university, working for a few years, buying a house, getting married, having babies and being ready for the (part-time) workplace again by the age of 35. It really never occurred to me that there was any variable contained within this. All of my friend’s parents had lived like this (the university was the added new variation, that was my school’s expectation added in for good measure!). Everyone I knew owned their own houses, the husbands worked ‘in town’ and the wives had part-time jobs or were full-time parents. Thinking back, this was my entire worldview, and despite my own circumstance (divorced parents, most anomalous in my world) this was still my expectation.

So I went to university at eighteen (still on track), fell in love with someone who was entirely inappropriate, got engaged (on track!), then left university in the middle of my second year (deviation, but we have still got this!), relationship ended (no white dress?) and it occurred to me that I was not living a life that I intended.

My friends from school (that I heard through generalised gossip) were living that life, my life. They had good jobs, marriages, houses and children. Possibly cars, dogs and expensive holidays too. But my life wasn’t fitting into such a neat boxes, my life was becoming perceptively different. At the time I was aware of this, but I wasn’t sure if my life was on the right path. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to deviate from my original plan.

I went to festivals, university, took holidays by myself, developed a love of facepaint, saw theatre, museums, had a couple of relationships, owned a house, didn’t own a house, played music, was a children’s nanny, worked in shops, offices, schools, cafes, shook hands with the Archbishop of Canterbury when I got my degree, had a baby, learnt sign language, became a single parent, grew a monster plant of aloe vera (it scares some of my friends), honed a muchly eclectic house, changed my politics and read enough books to fill a small library.

This had not been the plan. I was going to carry out scientific research in a lab and make pottery at weekends, alongside attending fancy dinner parties where everyone sparkled (I held a dinner party once, it was for six people, we all sat on the floor and the instruction at the beginning of the seven-course meal was to hang on to your cutlery, as I only had enough for one set per person. The meal was legend). And this would have been a good life. But now I recognise fully the life that I am actually living, it is abundant with new and sometimes chaotic enterprise! I do sometimes resent that I compared myself to the other life for so long. It is hard for me not to compare myself to others sometimes, but when I am comparing myself to an imagined perfection that never actually happened? That is much harder.

I am learning to accept that I am not already written. I am possibility.

Map Point. Do I fear the judgement of others?

 

Skill up

The Summer of 2017 was a most excellent one. I enjoyed family holidays and lots of chill time with my daughter. I asked her at the beginning of the holidays if there was anything special that she would like to do, and she said yes, she would like to go to the circus. I had sort of been aware that I hadn’t sorted anything out, but as the last week of the summer break approached, I remembered a flyer that I had picked up earlier in the year. It was for a circus that was only a half hour drive away. Win!

The name of the circus that we saw was ‘Nicole and Martin’s White Tent’. It involved two performers (Nicole and Martin I presume) and a child that was possibly their son, who came on a couple of times throughout the performance. And it was magical. It was the kind of show that allows adults to see as the eyes of children do, with wonder and amazement. Everything that the performers pretended to see, I could see too, with sharp clarity. And it was beautiful. My daughter laughed so hard that she went bright red and tears streamed down her face. It was a high point of the summer.

After the show, I started to think about the skill sets that I had witnessed that were employed by Nicole and Martin and how truly incredible they were. I saw them play clarinet, trombone, tuba, flute, trumpet, piccolo, violin, double bass and a host of percussion instruments. The both sang beautifully too. This was accompanied by juggling, magic and acting along side the myriad use of a small selection of props. There was also the acrobatics, the displays of balance and strength that were utterly astounding (think you can plank? try that on one hand, whilst balanced on someone else’s head, whilst they walk around.. whole new level!). And if that was not impressive enough, they also perform this whole show in at least four languages. In short, I was awed.

I can’t speak any other languages (am attempting to rectify), I can play maybe two instruments and I have never been able to touch my toes. It is desperately easy to compare myself to others and to come up short. There are so many amazing people in the world with skills that I will never have. I could see this as inspiring and could attempt to learn all these amazing things or I could simply be grateful to have such beauty in my life and appreciate the skills that I do have. I am not less by seeing greatness in others.

Map Point. Have I learnt not to spread myself too thin?

New toy

I have not written for a few days. Some times life get busy, and even important things can take a back seat. My life has not been any busier than normal, but there has been a new advent in my life. I am now the proud owner of a bass guitar.

I started playing guitar when I was seven years old. This might infer more than it really means. I have never had any aspiration to play in a band or perform (although I have on the latter), I play for me. I started learning chords and remember being able to knock out a pretty decent ‘Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow’ quite quickly. When I was eight, I started to learn to play classical. I had guitar lessons throughout most of my schooling and did some grading exams. And then around fifteen, I stopped wanting to learn anymore. I still played and loved the songs that I already knew, but I no longer had the motivation to extend my knowledge in this area. I would still sit and cuddle my guitar for many hours allowing my fingers the familiarity. But newness was no longer in my repertoire.

I think that the same thing can apply to so many areas of my life. I learn something, feel that I have achieved all I want to, and then move onto the next thing. This is, on one hand, a truly awesome thing. It allows me to harness many different types of skills. But the expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ does readily spring to mind. I then thought about this in a wider context. I was talking to someone about the job market and recruitment recently. It was pointed out to me that the ‘job for life’ has long been extinguished and that now we all supposedly must have a ‘career portfolio’. In essence, this means that having one particular skill set is no longer enough, we all should have several. Apparently.

I have always had the most glorious aptitude of being able to do most things that my work has required of me and have worked in enough places that my skill sets are wide. But they are not focussed. I am good at several things, but am not a master of any of them. I think that this is sad in some ways. If we are encouraging everyone to be good at everything, then some level of specialism is lost. But then I read an interview with Elon Musk. He was suggesting (to massively summarise) that people with only a singular specialism lose the wider view, and thus limit the number of ideas available to them for advancing in their field, whatever that may be. So having lots of skills actually enables a massive amount of cross referencing, what works in one area might be transferable to another.

The most major difference between my six string guitar and my bass is that my bass only has four strings. However, those four strings are pretty much the same (albeit somewhat lower) as the bottom four strings on my other guitar. So now I have started playing bass, I am already equipped with a massive amount of transferable knowledge. Currently, I am playing several times a day, until my hand aches and my fingers feel numb, and it is such an incredible thing, so much love for my new bass guitar! Maybe it isn’t that I ever stopped wanting to learn more, I just needed a way to express it.

Map Point. What do I want to learn next?

 

 

Mad five minutes

Boredom is a truly dangerous commodity. Yesterday afternoon I had a sudden hankering to cut my hair. I have quite long hair, so googled a couple of things and had a go. I then discovered that I had taken absolutely nothing off the length (intended outcome) and have in fact given myself a slightly above jaw-line length fringe. Which was in truth, muchly surprising. The last time I remember having a fringe was aged around seventeen and I was growing it out.

The transition between my Mum having control over my hair and me was quite big. When I was fifteen, my Mum had my hair ‘layered’. I don’t think that I had any idea what she was talking about, but she seemed excited and I didn’t really have too much interest in what it looked like. The only time that I did was when I had it short and the hairdresser made it uneven.. which caused huge contention, but layering, I was utterly down for. My hair is naturally curly. If I go to sleep with damp hair I wake up with an eighties perm. Post layering, It was much curly. I am not sure I quite realised how curly until the day of my class photo. Mum had given me instructions to remove my hairband and ‘shake it out’ prior to photograph time. I did, with the due diligence of an obedient daughter. Sweet and Holy Moses. On first glance of this photo, my hair is all you see, you would be forgiven for thinking that ‘Cousin IT’ had just landed on my head. My hair was huge. Almost as wide on each side as my face was. I think it was this photo that inspired more of a love for my hair. Growing out all layers and fringe with immediate effect became a priority.

This morning I went to see my most talented friend who made my hair happy again. And now I am going to find a good selection of clips to contend with my five minutes of boredom.

Map Point. How does boredom affect me?

 

My brain

I suppose that everyone thinks differently. Not as in their ideas, beliefs and whatnot, but in how they actually process information. Until recently I just presumed everyone processed in much the same way, unless a specific issue had been identified. I thought it was quite typical to ponder multiple things at once, but apparently, most people don’t think like this. I had a chat with a friend about this and he seemed to think that it would make my life harder, he almost had a look of pity. The thing was, to only think one thing at a time? I felt that same pity right back. I am very much attached to way that I think, and I guess everyone else is too!

There is a line, from a song in the show Matilda, which I utterly love

‘Have you ever wondered, well I have, about how when I say red, for example, there’s no way of knowing if red, means the same thing in your head, as red means in my head when someone says red?’

Interpretations, even of common, standard things can have such wide variance, that in truth, I just have to take for granted that other people interpret things, at least vaguely the same way as me. Otherwise, that would be far too many variables. In order to communicate, I think this has to be a generalised common acceptance. But at the same time, everyone does have different perspectives.

I have found this most recently with my blog. I know that people have different opinions on almost every subject on earth. But it still feels strange that people who know me can have such wide variances in how they have read my words. I find it completely amazing and sort of exciting too. Pieces that I have written that have been heart-wrenching to write have been perceived as laugh out loud funny. Similarly, things that I have written that have made me giggle, others have read as bleak and depressing. I guess we all use the mirror of our own lives to relate to new ideas. What someone else meant, what someone else understood as absolute, is utterly ready for adaptation in a new person’s mind. I think this is an exceptional thing.

Map Point. Can I ever really know what anyone else is thinking?

 

Guardians of childhood

Recently I went to the cinema with my mum and daughter. We watched ‘A Streetcat Named Bob’. I read the book a long time ago, and all I really remembered was that a homeless person found a most marvellous cat and it gave him hope to get his life back on track. What I entirely forgot was that it also deals with the subject of heroin addiction and recovery. Post film, this prompted a really interesting conversation with my daughter who wanted to understand why he suddenly became very ill, and I explained the process of withdrawal to her. Afterwards, it occurred to me this was one of the hard conversations that happen during the process of growing up. Explaining to your child that the world is not straightforward and there are harsh things out there feels really bleak. It is also important not to overwhelm and to counter this with all the amazing things too. Of which there are many. And then I thought about the easier ‘hard’ conversations that I have engaged in with my daughter.

Father Christmas. The Easter Bunny. And most specifically, The Tooth Fairy. And whether or not these noble warriors of children’s existences, are actually real. For the most part, I have always taken the philosophical approach with my daughter, if we can talk about something, then it exists at some level. And then if further conversation was necessary, we would talk about if dreams or ideas were real.

This is where the conversation has become interesting for me. There seemed to be a clear separation in my daughter’s mind about reality. She understands that there is a physical manifestation and there is also the non-physical, which is somehow less real but seems to have a good deal of validity. I guess we have always had these sorts of conversations, even when she was smaller. Possibly my favourite ponder of my child was when she was around five. We had just entered the car park where we lived, there were lots of spaces. She said ‘If you go into a car park and there is only space, then that is not a choice. One choice isn’t a choice at all’. Clearly, as an adult, I can see the wider applications of her words, but I often wonder if she did as well.

We have now had the logistical chat about the existence of ideas, and other than Father Christmas (who is based on an actual person, which makes him somewhat more contentious than the other characters) we are all good. I generally think that when a child asks a question, they are ready for an answer. Maybe not the most complex one, but one that is without fabrication and definitely holds some element of truth.

Map Point. What questions do I still want to ask?