Monday, 14 April 2014


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.


  1. a tiny old man in a lamb costume?! *dies*

  2. Oh I loved reading about Mekko and Linus.

    Many years ago my hubby said he was getting to stop me watching stuff about how life was hard and crap because it always upset me. And then in my 2nd lot of therapy it was pointed out I didn't need to take on all the world's problems. Helping one person or thing was still helping - my therapist said how many people do you have to helped to have helped people? When I started the psychotherapy course, and therapy again, 2012/13, I was in complete overwhelm and basically having a breakdown. I felt powerless, a failure, huge guilt, etc, etc, all completely weighed down by and adding to the exhaustion of the fibro. So last year I finally got to grips (hopefully once and for all) that I have to be compassionate to myself first and at the moment, with being ill, it really does mean that I don't have the energy to do voluntary work (as I was trying to do then, and have always done in past), that it is ok for me to drive and not feel guilty about it because I have a disability, and that I need to bring a lot of happiness and fun into my life because I had to become an adult at the age of 11. I have even started to realise that reading or watching stuff that upsets me isn't good for my hypersensitive nervous system, so I pick things with care and if something does provoke a strong emotional reaction, I make sure I do some relaxation stuff to counteract the physical response.

    I think there probably isn't a way of losing our sensitivity and we probably, given the chance, wouldn't want to lose it. I think it is about finding ways to be compassionate to our own needs and accepting that sometimes, often, that means we can't save the other from pain. Sometimes we need to retreat and focus on fun. And we can also trust that there are other people who are doing positive things as well.

    I love the photo.

  3. i hear you. i no longer listen/watch/read the news, for instance. as it is, i tend to waltz the dark places as my natural inclination and i don't need any help in falling deeper in. there's a fine balance between despair and staying informed.

    a conscious decision to seek the magic - that has been my saving grace.

    like stories about Linus and Mekka. *sigh*. those were absolute magic.


  4. I'm totally moving to Brooklyn.

  5. Thank you Alison, for sharing this. I think we have a lot in common. And thank you for taking the time to share how you manage, it's so good to read. Of course I would never want to lose my sensitivity, but a little enforced distance from it at times is, I think, essential. Even if that means sticking my fingers in my ears and singing loudly : ) I too have that 'grew up too soon' thing and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. The idea that I'm the one that can make it all better. Very arrogant really. Delusional at best. But the guilt over not trying hard enough and not being able to keep my own head above water, let alone help anyone else...ack. This too shall pass.
    P.S Yes I went private on Twitter : )

  6. Weren't they though? Such a cute and funny pair, just like my two hooligans.

  7. oh but that blog is delish!