Why am I struggling so much with getting to grips with painting right now?

Partly because my head says ‘paint what you see’ and my heart says ‘paint what you feel’ but so far together they give me such conflicting messages I don’t quite know which way to turn. So I try to paint what I see – simplified, of course – and then add some feeling to it afterwards, which doesn’t always work out the way I want it. Or I paint what I feel and then try to make it look more realistic afterwards, which also doesn’t quite work it the way I want it? And as a result both options often end up looking over-painted, sitting heavy and dull on the paper, neither quite one thing nor the other…

Why can’t I just learn to get the balance right in a way that both looks OK, but also feels OK to me?

Why don’t I just keep on trying, and see what creates itself out of my confusion?

Yeah, I guess that’s what I’ll do… I’ll just keep on trying 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Why

Mixed Metaphors and Muddling Through

I’ve been having a bit of a post-menopausal crisis of identity lately in that I feel I’m no longer completely who I was, but find I’m not yet quite fully formed into who I will be, either. I’m lost in limbo, held hesitant in a strange transitional place, a liminal space on the threshold between yesterday’s me and tomorrow’s me, waiting for the way out to become clear so I can move forward with confidence once more.

It feels as if the worn fabric of my old life has been torn, leaving precariously frayed edges and a yawning gap of vulnerability and weakness that initially left me holding my breath for fear of causing further damage. My first thought was to try to mend the rupture immediately, stitch it up tight, put a patch over it to provide reinforcement, remain in denial of my long-lost youth. But then with the tension already released I started to wonder what bits and pieces might be hidden away deep down and sheer curiosity caused me to forego my fears and rummage about a bit beneath the surface.

Inside myself I found not only all those parts of me I ever was, but also multiple bulky boxes of Wishful-Thinkings and Maybe-One-Days, Roads-Not-Taken and Ideal-Imaginings, never unpacked and simply kept stored away for potential future use. And at 58 years old I realised that the contents of many of these unopened boxes were no longer dormant dreams to be taken out and aired at some point, but over the years had somehow become stagnant in stifled obsolescence. They were filled with myriad Things I Will Never Do and People I Will Never Be, some by choice and some by circumstance.

And I also realised that it was long past time to let many of these musty old boxes go. I need to lay them to rest peacefully and deliberately so the ghostly disappointments of so many discarded dreams do not haunt my identity into my future. Because thankfully I have found no real major regrets in there – it seems the things I wanted to do most in life I have actually done. I may not always have succeeded in all things I have attempted, but I have tried and sometimes failed or have changed my mind about them, and having had that experience is enough for me.

Life is always about prioritising, making choices between one thing and another, adapting and assimilating and becoming anew, time after time. In the past I may have dreamed that one day I would write a book, but I know now I never will because I simply don’t want it enough. In the same vein I will never have a proper career, because having a family first mattered more to me and I preferred to work around their needs. I have to accept that I never will grow up to be tall and slim, the lithe leggy athletic blonde of my youthful dreams because my genes have determined otherwise and I simple cannot be what I am not so why upset myself wishing for the physically impossible?

Better by far to make the most of what I have rather than yearn for an imagined ideal that I can never attain. I am a middle-aged post-menopausal grandmother with ongoing health problems and at times a heavy heart. Depression and anxiety have always played a huge part in my life to date and with the best will in the world they will not be going anywhere soon, so inevitably all of those weighed-down dusty boxes of hopes and dreams belonging to someone more emotionally robust who has not experienced a lifetime of mental health issues also need to be placed gently but firmly in the growing pile marked ‘Leave Behind’.

I feel like I have enough experiential emotional baggage to carry around with me without bulking it out with all these outdated optional extras whose statute of limitations has effectively long run out. I feel like in order to know myself into the future I first need to be sure who I am not, who I will never be, draw a clear line in the sand and step beyond all those potential dead ends that belong firmly in the past. I know I will find a way through this and feel whole once more, but right now I’m not quite there yet.

And I know in my heart of hearts that however lost and confused I may feel right now, as I start on my later-life journey towards becoming an old woman I’ll also be moving more freely towards becoming a new woman, too…

Beginnings and Endings

Life’s equation for change to begin
Something else must end, yang to its yin
Forfeit sadness and pain
For the joy of new gain
Hope the journey flows easy within
When such change is a choice, we embrace
New beginnings slide sweetly in place
We move on, feel no lack,
Look ahead, don’t look back
Feel the flush of new warmth on our face
But when changes are foisted in fear
We resist and we struggle, unclear
Focus hard on what’s lost
What has gone, what it cost
Feel the old life we know disappear
Such refusal is futile at source
Because change is a fixed constant force
Just accept and adapt
Release grief tightly wrapped
Let new ribbons of life run their course…

Weekly Prompt: Beginning

April A-Z: D is for Depression

I’ve struggled with depression on and off my whole life, but these days I’ve stopped fretting about it as much as I used to. The thing is, it always passes eventually, the dark moods clear in time and the sun shines internally again, and all I have to do is sit it out and wait for it to work itself out. Wherever possible I try not to take antidepressants any more – they do take the edge off the worst of the lows but I find they also take the edge off any little highs that might spike occasionally, too, leaving me feeling flat and lifeless, hopeless and helpless.  For me, I’ve discovered the hard way I’d rather feel it all in the raw, good and bad, and simply adjust my lifestyle accordingly. When I’m depressed I do less, demand less of myself, withdraw and lick my wounds until I heal. When I’m not depressed I fill my time with (relative) fun as best I can, and just be thankful to still have a life at all.

Life events have conspired to pull me away from blogging over the last couple of months, and the idea of taking part in this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge seems like a good way to try to get back into the habit of reading and posting regularly. Originally I thought of just using any old random words to go with the particular letter of the day, but realistically without a clear theme to work towards I’m not sure I’d be able to keep my focus for a full month… So instead I’ve opted for a relatively simple, if slightly self-indulgent work-around: This year I’ll be posting 26 things about me, nothing too taxing to write about yet still fulfilling the brief!

Tipping Over the Edge…

Emotionally, I often live my life teetering right on the brink, precariously balanced, far too often constantly on edge and seriously super-charged stressing about stuff of no consequence. I really don’t like being that way, if I had a choice I would choose to be chilled and relaxed and take things easy, but it seems I am simply not built that way. Sometimes my balance is reasonably good and life feels safe and sound and stable, but at other times I see-saw back and fore, flailing wildly in my attempts to remain solidly in place. At times like these it doesn’t take much to tip me over into emotional free-fall, tears pricking hotly behind my eyes and feeling myself in a blind panic over the silliest of things outside of my control… the bus hasn’t turned up as expected and I have a 10-miute wait until the next, only semi-skimmed milk is available when I was looking for skimmed… It’s at times like these I know I’m holding on too tight, but have no idea how to release my vice-like grip and reduce my heightened anxiety… And then all of a sudden with no rhyme nor reason the panic starts to clear and I regain my balance and all is well again – at least until the next time…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Tip


Embarrassment sears hot on my face
Skin throbbing bright in deep red flush
Awkwardness lit up in gaudy neon lights
Drawing attention like a burning beacon…

Skin throbbing bright in deep red flush
All eyes turn on my squirming discomfort
Drawing attention like a burning beacon
Highlighting my humiliated soul…

All eyes turn on my squirming discomfort
Awkwardness lit up in gaudy neon lights
Highlighting my humiliated soul
Embarrassment sears hot on my face…

It seems my lifelong fear of being not-good-enough will not let me write wilfully bad poetry… But I’ve never written a pantoum before so I thought I would give it a go anyway! 🙂

Terrible Poetry Contest: Embarrassment

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Visceral


Guess I’m one of life’s big over-thinkers
Spend my days wearing worry-shaped blinkers
My anxiety grows
More than anyone knows
Every problem expands and just lingers

Wish I knew how to not be so stressed
Keep my monkey-mind brain less obsessed
I’d enjoy life much more
Feeling calm at my core
Not so fearful and not so depressed

But for now I’m still stuck with my thoughts
Over-anxious and vaguely distraught
Wish I worried much less
Would be good, I confess
To feel peaceful and not overwrought…

Weekly Prompt: Overthink

The Waiting Game…

Impatiently I clock-watch, counting time

Each taunting tick precise, accentuates

Reality like slow motion sublime

With bated breath in-drawn, exaggerates

I feel my heart-beat loudly fill my chest

With rhythmic regularity at base

Internal cadence pulsing without rest

As in-built metronome increases pace

Distressed, I try my best just to distract

My mind from life-blood pounding fast and fleet

But can’t escape the solid soundless fact

This ‘now’ exists, exquisitely complete

The time has come where I can only wait

Till time itself unfolds, reveals my fate…

Settling and Accepting…

Fandango asks a really thought-provoking Provocative Question this week, and is actually one that I’m pondering in real life right now. He asks:

Do you see a difference in settling for things and accepting the way things are? If so, in what way are they different? If not why do you feel settling and accepting are the same?

Hmmm… Well, the convoluted back story to my rambling answer is that I’ve had ongoing/ recurring problems with the ligaments in and around my right hip since my late teens and early twenties, when I was pregnant with my three kids for pretty much three years in a row.

I was diagnosed a long time ago with a Sacro-Iliac Joint Dysfunction which is annoying and extremely uncomfortable more than anything else and frustratingly it still plays up occasionally (usually when I’ve inadvertently done something to it), needing some concentrated targeted exercise on my part to mend – until the next time it plays up.

My kids are now all in their late 30s and I’m in my late 50s, so one way or another I’ve been dealing with my dodgy hip/ lower back/ leg pain on and off for a long time. By now I generally know when to rest it and when to push it to work it off, and it’s got me this far so I must be doing something right.  

Recently, however, I hurt my hip while mowing the grass in the garden – not actually that unusual an occurrence for me. I kind of turned and twisted at the same time while turning the mower around and my hip protested immediately, admittedly to an acute level of pain way beyond the norm – it felt a bit deeper, somehow a bit more than I’d had before.

I tried my usual programme of a few days or so of deliberate rest and exercise and anti-inflammatory pain medication but although the ligaments and muscles seemed to be moving OK the internal hip pain remained and if anything, it got worse as time passed. So after a few weeks (I’m nothing if not stubborn!) I finally accepted maybe something else was wrong and I probably needed to see a doctor.

The doctor duly arranged for me to see a physio, and after a thorough manual examination the physio diagnosed osteoarthritis within the hip joint itself. I’ve got to have an X-Ray to confirm exactly how much degeneration/ disintegration there is, but it seems there’s not much doubt as to what’s causing my hip pain.

I have no more range of movement with passive manipulation of the joint than when actively moving my leg myself, and although my left hip allows for an easy 40 degree rotation before it meets any resistance at all my right hip sticks fast at a measly ten, at which point it absolutely hurts like hell, screaming in its refusal to move beyond the barest minimum.

The rest of the physio consultation consisted of discussing potential treatment of what is clearly going to be a long-term problem to learn to live with – no quick fix, no cure, just a sensible programme of mobility management on into the future, and the sooner I start thinking about that, the better. In one sense, it’s no big deal.

It’s an age-related wear-and-tear arthritis in my hip, so it’s inevitably going to slow me down a bit – I mean it already has slowed me down these past few weeks, it’s been depressingly debilitating at times – but it’s not something that’s going to kill me. I’m going to need to support and protect my gradually disintegrating hip joint as best I can from now on, carefully doing just enough to keep it strong but not enough to exacerbate it.

So here’s where the settling/ acceptance thing comes in. In my current situation I have no option but to accept that my ongoing hip problem is now a lot worse than it was, and clearly I’m not going to be able to continue to manage it in quite the same laissez-faire way as I have for the last thirty-odd years. I’m not going to be able to carry on doing everything the way I’ve always done it, and some things will have to change, like it or not.

Even now physically I can’t curl up on the sofa, because already my hip just doesn’t bend that way so I’m sitting differently. I’ve already been sleeping with a support cushion between my knees for the last few weeks to allow my hip to remain reasonably level, otherwise the pain wakes me up every time I turn over in bed. And I already wear supportive cushioned footwear due to having Plantar Fasciitis, so that’s a start.

I realise I might have to start walking with a stick at some point to further reduce the stress going through my hip joint with every step – to be honest I’d probably find it helpful even now, although psychologically I’m not quite there yet. And I’ll have to change the way I do the gardening, maybe creating some raised beds instead and rethinking long-term access to the back garden (currently via stone steps leading down from the patio).

But one of the reasons we bought a bungalow in the first place was due to looking ahead to potential mobility problems as we got older. This is maybe a bit sooner than we’d intended for contemplating such considerations but the planning was already in place for accommodating such a change in circumstances once we’d retired.

Thinking about the way I like to live my life now, I’m sure I can adapt the way I do some things – most things in fact – but probably not everything. Only time will tell. So for those things I will have to give up at some point, is that going to be me settling for something less than ideal, or simply accepting my new reality?

I think for me it will necessarily be more of a positive acceptance of my new limitations, because in my mind the idea of just settling for something sounds unacceptably second best, as if you’ve decided to spend the rest of your life mourning what you simply can’t have or can’t do instead of focusing proactively on what you still can do and still have in your life.

Perhaps what I’m saying is that once you’ve done everything you possibly can to improve any given situation, whereas ‘settling for something’ sounds to me like taking a glass half empty approach with something notably and regretfully missing from the past, ‘accepting the way things are’ is more about looking at the glass as half full of possibility and hope for the future, and personally I know which I’d rather do…