8. let the faerie out the jar without dying
It's a harder challenge than you'd think. They're vengeful creatures. I mean, she looks sweet and kind enough, but don't let that fool you. Note the hand behind her back.
I didn't put her in there, but I did find her, dammit, so it's on me now. If I don't report back next week, you'll know I'm a frog. Or a statue. Or what even do faeries turn people into when they're angry?
7. wear a flower in your hair
I paint flowers so they will not die. ― Frida Kahlo
Katerina is this young woman's name. She was born of a tired brain in the early hours of a Saturday morning because I seem constitutionally unable to put down a pen or pencil once I have picked one up, however drastically, shockingly, unhealthily, late the hour has become. I only meant to lay down a couple of watercolour splodges to dry while I slept, so they would be all ready to go in the morning. And then just sketch her face, maybe, so I can see how it will look, and then no harm in adding her body, that'll just take a minute, and then, look, the watercolour is dry enough to work around, and, oh my goodness what is going on with that hair, do you even know what you are doing, that looks nothing like the picture that inspired you, arrrrghh, add in some leaves and a bird, bugger, wrecked that! Now colour, more colour, bit more colour, and fill those splodges in with a rose outline or the whole thing will look silly. Just a bit more colour and ... oh my God it's 4am.
But she was worth the lost sleep. She is, I think, representative of my favourite Muse. An impatient, beautiful, wild, and abundantly floral Muse. In any case I love her. I love her so much that I have used her likeness multiple times on every piece of internet space I frequent, and then redecorated my very own blog around her. Even though I only just did that a couple of months ago. She demanded it. I didn't argue. I didn't mind.
I don't mind saying I love her either, even though I drew her. She feels like something other than me, something that existed before, and will exist long after, I ever took pen to paper.
I wasn't consciously thinking of today's challenge as I drew her, though I already knew of it. I've taken to picking the challenge from the challenge jar early because 1) it gives me time to think and get supplies and 2) I am compelled to OCD levels of extremity to open things early. It kills me to have knowledge available that I can't access. That someone else has, but won't make available to me. My husband once hid my birthday present in our roof space and found my frantic failed searches hilariously funny. I did not. He still does. I still do not.
My rose bushes, they love to make flowers. Even now, neglected, in the middle of winter, covered in both rosehips and black spot, they still flash a pretty petal or two whenever they can manage it. Bless them.
I have been watching some YouTube videos on making fabric roses, a fascinating way to pass a day, and they all, without fail, got something quite wrong about roses. Roses are not perfect. Their petals are not symmetrical, not when they are in bloom. Wind, rain, insects, and good old Father Time, take care of that. Look at those petals on my dying lovely above. They're a crazy mix of sizes and shapes. That's what makes blooming roses so lushly, insanely, beautiful, their very abundant asymmetry. Treat them as a stack of cloned templates and you'll only get a highly stylised replica, recognisable but lacking any emotional resonance. A shadow of the real, of the individually unique, rose. Maybe that's exactly what you want. Good luck to you, I pray you live long and prosper. But it's really not exactly what I want.
LIFE METAPHOR ALERT.
I wonder why I thought I might like to wear a flower in my hair? I think perhaps I was having a Frida moment, or wanting to have a Frida moment, because that woman was about as far away as you can get from my staid blobby bland persona of a self. I never have had, and never will have, the charisma of a Frida. But I could have the flowers of one?
Probably not. Probably without the cultural and historical context in which that charisma resided, I will merely look like a frowsy hausfrau trying, unsuccessfully, to add some longed for glamour into her dull day. Mutton dressed as bouquet. The original impetus behind it all, more likely, was something of a social challenge: I am so terrified of judgement I thought it might do me good to provoke some intentionally, and then weather it, get over it. Even if only in my own head.
Blurgle, gurgle, perg.
But I'm just so sick of that frowsy hausfrau persona. I mean, bless her, but I do find her so very embarrassing.
Having dissed the template wielding YouTubers, I had to put my theory to the test. Random piles of that organza type ribbon were cut, and hacked into vaguely petal shaped objects. Some were rounder, some squarer, some kind of weird curvy oops.
You create the curl by holding the roughly hacked pieces over a flame, preferably not a house on fire, a nice atmospheric candle will do. I used pliers to hold them over said flame, because I am a menace with hot objects and burn myself consistently a lot. When you have finished your pile, you arrange them in a flower-like manner, as pleases you. You have freedom of will in this matter. And then just sew a few stitches through all the layers to hold it together. It was so quick, maybe 20 minutes, with 10 of those looking for a needle because my organisation of any and all art or craft material can best be described as unstable-chaotic. You have to wonder how I get through an entire day without adult supervision.
I was right though, about how good random mess would look, was I not? Eilidh says I earned 10 points for Gryffindor, which is confusing, because my house is Hufflepuff.
Pretty lady. I'm trying to sneak her in here quietly, because I think she's lovely and it seemed rude not to.
I hot glue gunned some crystals beads into the middle, because they looked the best. I kind of hesitated - you're going to use those, for that - but anything else would have been making do, rather than being proud of.
LIFE METAPHOR ALERT.
And yes, I did put it in my hair. I'm wearing it now. Didn't have to go out much today, but all the peeps looking in my van window as I drove to pick Nathan up from the bus station would have been totally impressed.
When outtakes become best takes. Stay classy, Megan.
Isn't that a cheery pick? Eilidh pulled it out the jar, and said to me, well, you could take it literally. You could write about something actually dark, like an ode to black wool...
I'm not going to.
I thought we might chat about shame.
I've always thought of shame as attached to something bad I have done, even though I am more inclined to agree with the premise that guilt is the feeling we have when we have done something wrong, shame is the feeling we have when we think there is something wrong with us. The connection I had not yet made, not fully, not consciously, is that where there is shame, even the good things we do are stained by it.
It's been an interesting couple of weeks. I've made progress on my thesis. It's not your common or garden variety thesis, but a mix of art, academics, and creative non-fiction. Negotiating the tensions between these styles and ways of thinking has been challenging, and sometimes I fall flat, and sometimes I do okay, and sometimes, very occasionally, I'm bloody impressive. The longer and harder I work on it, the better I am able to stitch all the disparate elements together without the seams showing too badly.
The longer and harder I work on it, the better the artwork I am creating outside of the thesis has become too. At some point last week, I felt connected to all the disparate elements of my life, and strong within them. I bought a domain name so I had a place to develop a website of my own, centered around encouraging creativity and selling art. I had a thousand million compliments on my current work (okay, a dozen or so, which felt as fabulous as a thousand million), a commissioned drawing for a birthday picture. People I love and trust told me that what I had done, not just then but over the many years they've known me, was beautiful, was exquisite.
For the first time I let myself believe it. Not just a little, but the whole of it. That they all meant everything they said, and that I actually did have something to offer that I enjoyed doing and was appreciated by others.
Then it all fell apart. Poof! and gone. At some point during my relaxed, happy, Sunday, any burgeoning self-belief or confidence drained rapidly and completely out the big fat hole that remains situated at the very centre of my psyche.
(Enter, dramatic music of impending doom).
Imposter syndrome, someone will tell me. Someone invariably tells me. But no. Not that. Not quite that. And as part of my research, as part of my nascent scholarly expertise, I would like to suggest that we need to be very careful when we listen to someone's story that we don't slot it immediately into the other stories we know and believe. That we listen to what they are saying, not listening to how the things they are saying fits into the things we know. That we ask questions, rather than deliver judgements. Otherwise we are not listening, but waiting for an echo.
It's not imposter syndrome, though yes, that can happen too, and is manageable with one large pair of big girls undies and a very small dosage of sportswear logo psychology. Just do it! Impossible is nothing! But deeper, wider, stronger than feeling you are not who people think you are, is thinking you are not anything at all. Is shame. A deep, dark, rotten, sludgy, mess of shame.
I'm 43 years old, mostly happy, love and am loved, work hard to improve my education and my understanding of the world so that I might be able to contribute something back to that world. Know that my existence is proof enough of my worth. And however much I love, however hard I work, however worthy I believe myself to be, I also stay, at my core, ashamed. The damage was done too young, too completely, for that to greatly change (though who knows? I'm open to being horribly awfully mistaken), but I've learned not to self-blame (too much), learned compassion, learned we all are a mess, a beautiful mess. I appreciate that about others, well not the slow drivers, bugger those guys, but most others. I even, generally, appreciate that about myself. I manage the parts of me I don't like, could improve on, am lacking in. I manage that core of shame in the areas of my weaknesses.
But I never noticed how the shame had also leached its way into the things I am proud of, the bits of myself I enjoy and appreciate; my strengths. Never taught myself how to manage that. My academic work, my artwork, my photography, my writing. Okay, I'm lying, I secretly think all my artwork is total crap. But I can see some skill and ability in the other things, and I'm not ashamed of those things. I'm ashamed of me, and so there is a consequent embarrassment about putting the things that I create out into the world that remains unaffected by how well I think I've done, how well they are received. They are all fruits of a poisoned tree, if you like.
I'm not going to write a note of gratitude about that. But I am grateful for the self-awareness that feeling inherently contemptible every day of my life has offered me, in the sense that I have learned to hold the anger, prejudices, judgments, mistakes, missteps, ignorance of others more lightly than I might have otherwise. Who the hell am I to insist on holding them to a higher standard than I hold myself? If I'm forgiveable, so are they. If I am not the sum of the worst thing I have ever done, then neither are they. If I say dumb ass things that don't always reflect what I truly feel and believe, then likely they do too. Etc. And so forth. My kindness is born from my shame, and I'm grateful to it for that.
Though? There also remain people in this world of whom it is my fervently stated preference that they keep themselves the hell away from me and mine, please, and thank you. Forgiveness and compassion are not the same thing as a lack of boundaries.
So here we are, at the end of our story, and no closer to an answer than when we begun. How do you have compassion on your strengths, learn to show kindness to your abilities? What an absurd thing. What an absurd situation I find myself in.
I'll get back to you.
Hey. Sorry for lack of post last week, am working hard to get my thesis finished, one of a gabillion projects I am well behind on.
Turns out the shoulder thing is a major nerve disorder, an immune-mediated attack on the group of nerves that run from my neck down through my left arm. I'm starting to regain movement, but with the movement comes the return of the pain, and it's still very, very weak.
It pains me to admit it, and I don't think I've actually admitted it at all, but I think I am trying to do too many things still. The parenting, the study, the blog, the volunteer work, the small paid work, the cartoons, drawing, painting, knitting, crochet, the paid blogging. Exercise, keeping up with friends. The book I started, the magazine articles. The failed food blog/instagram that I never publicised either, and still have the impulse to go back to ...
I've never been much good at focussing my energies. I think it shows up in my body, because I rarely feel I'm doing too much, I just suddenly get really sick. Or rupture something while I'm running distractedly between here and there. I've felt so old, so physically broken, this last month. I'm limping along, and I'll get to the finish line of my thesis, but it's time to face the reality that there are trade-offs. I either try to pack in everything I want to do and trade-off my physical wellbeing, or I prioritise my physical wellbeing and trade-off some of the things I want to do. And I do want to do all those things. More actually. All The Things!!! I can't bear the thought of letting go of any of them. And I can't bear the thought of putting myself through another major health break-down.
Cheery thoughts for a Sunday afternoon. I just needed to tell someone out loud, and you were it. And if you were interested, last week's challenge was to pick an ingredient from the pantry I bought but never used, and make a meal based on it. I hereby pass the challenge on to you. Go ye forth and create.
I'll be back in a week or two when I've made more thesis progress.
5. pick a random sample pot of paint from the paint shop and use it to decorate an old wooden chair for the garden.
I was sure I was going to end up with beige. Or cream, or creamy beige, or creamy beige brown. Certain of it.
Not so much.
It was, as I imagine my son might like to point out, not actually, mathematically, a random choice. I grabbed something near at head height as I walked through the door, and then, because one pot was clearly not going to be enough, another something at head height from the next shelf along. But if they weren't strictly random, then for sure I didn't know what was inside, and I didn't want to couldn't wait until I got home to find out either, so opened the lids in the car. Fortunately for us all this did not result in lime green and purple paint sprayed all over the interior, though that would have been a fun story too.
Such a bad paint job some anonymous Megan did on it. And, she didn't care, precious! She says, we spends far too much of our lifes caring, precious, and far too much is not our friendses.
Winter posy is our friendses, though. Winter posy takes cares of us, yes.
4. write a poem about secrets
As picked by Nathan Campbell, who is 18.82 years old today. The opening sentence came from a Psychology Today post (mostly reductionist uselessness) on FaceBook. It leapt out as a prompt, though I don't suppose it is really much about secrets after all; rather hidden psychic limps. I doubt it is finished, but I am sure that it is done.
A child raised in an unloving home
must eventually face the truth.
Their wound is a scar of insufficiency
sewn tight against the lining of their bodies,
tracing hidden longings of belonging.
They are not empty here, but borderless
Lacking the windows, walls, doors, of the secure.
Memory is absence; forgetting too;
faith in comfort a mythology:
All hail Sanctuary, the trickster King of guile.
Their vacant presence twists as a
weighted ghost tethered to all future homes.
You are (perhaps? not) welcome here.
The covert soul en garde
for the pounding of time into nullity.
A child raised in an unloving home
must, eventually, face the truth.
Likely you're aware from FB or Instagram that I have developed a paralysis of the left shoulder - spent half of Monday in scans and xrays as it was thought the problem was in the shoulder tendons, but turns out it isn't. In the nerves somewhere. Anyway, long story very short, was feeling sorry for myself all day and didn't get to the challenge. Next week. I hope it's something that will require only one arm...
3. make one up as you go along
I didn't get that out of the magic challenge jar. The busyness levels have reached critical and I have the world's most sore shoulder. World's. Most. Sore. Hard to sleep, to type, to not sit around all day complaining about soreness. My own fault - I keep forgetting to take my nasty medication because its nasty and a painful flare was inevitable. Though pain doesn't quite capture it, it's more like embedded doom. Deep, unrelenting, hellish. Things have hurt worse, but not often felt worse. Stupid lady, stupid shoulder.
All week I have been apologising to you in my head for last week. Such boring, so many nothings. I could have at least painted my face with chocolate, or a random stranger's face. Used it as body paint and ridden Godiva like through the town centre, except I don't really have a town and it doesn't really have a centre. Nevertheless. Buy chocolates and eat them - genius.
That chilli one really was amazing though.
So this week, a day late, and no less uninteresting, photos of my home. Which is not a styled and stylish home, I live transiently, everything I own feels temporary and in waiting for something real. I don't know why I live like that. It's distressing, and yet...
But I do see corners of joy and life and colour, little montage of what is permanently me, permanently mine. Like a posy on the coffee table from the remnants of last Summer's flowers.
Kitchen benches in the most god-awful green, but still colour. Still tea. The tea wears a hat to keep heat and flavour in for the three minutes its brewing OF COURSE.
Creepy doll, forgotten, hidden, not well loved but vaguely amusing. I kept her out of duty when my mother died, and I wish I hadn't, but feel uncomfortable getting rid of her now. She does brings up angry feelings if I am in her company too long, of how much I held in and how hard it was, and how a part of me wishes I just let myself blow up in decades worth of pain and anger and rent the veil of conformity all the way to hell. Repressed rage is what creepy doll mostly means to me, and I don't love her for it.
The bedrooms of my offspring, one filer, two pilers. I'm a piler. I'm also not very tolerant of people piling. I hate it when people pile.
Though I do pile rather beautifully.
Or at least colourfully.
If not entirely, not all the time. All those words on those pages. I love my thesis, my weirdly creative arts/psychology mash-up thesis, but all those words. I want to use words of my own. I'm weary of having to repeat words of others, who repeat words of others, who repeat Foucault.
The broken, the boring, the colourful, the fantastical, the neglected, the dusty. This is my life. I'm not ashamed of it.
2. visit a chocolate factory and buy one of the nicest sounding chocolates, and one of the worst
A food challenge, thank you baby cheeses. There are two artisan chocolate factories within half an hour drive of my place and I've never been to either. I'm ashamed and I'm sorry.
I chose the one north, because five minutes that way and you're into farmland and rivers and ocean views.
Like that. So, yeah.
Though let's not talk about the terrible drivers I encountered on the way, because some things are best not re-lived. Suffice to say, not everyone reads speed limit signs apparently, and/or don't feel the need to adjust their speeds to the open road.
Chocolate Brown, she's a beautiful wee place. Nowhere near as quiet and idyllic as it looks, it sits in the middle of a busy road with a bustling supermarket and building sites in a town that has apparently decided it doesn't believe in pedestrian crossings. And today, of course, they had a broken eftpos machine. Twenty minutes standing in line to order a scone and a cup of tea and another twenty minutes waiting for it, with nowhere to sit but the busy middle of the busy cafe where everyone had to push right by me to get past.
And yet. Nicest date scone I ever had, and the tea was hot and strong, and who said adventures, even comfortable short adventures up the road to the chocolate factory, were meant to run smooth? No-one. Well, I would say that if I could make it come true, but I can't, AND WHY AM I NOT OMNIPOTENT ANYWAY? I'd much prefer it.
Random hebe. I was trying to calm myself down from the effects of living in a world with other humans in it, and it was a truly beautiful colour. Pity the empty drink bottles strewn randomly underneath the hedge.
Finally chocolates. They were only taking cash in that half of the shop, broken eftpos etc., so I had to leave and go find some. Picking a worse sounding chocolate was harder than I thought it would be, but the manuka honey was a favourite for that category. Manuka honey is really strong and just doesn't go with chocolate. Yuck, ew, gross. But they gave that one to me in a taste tester thing at the check-out, so I didn't want to buy it as well. Chose a whisky fig chocolate because puke whisky! Puke dried fig!
Really wasn't so bad at all. I kind of liked it.
The orange liqueur was my pick for the nicer sounding one - yum for sure, if not spectacular. Because I can, I also chose a pina colada chocolate, the one in the white cone, super gross. Hated it. And a chilli chocolate, the red marbled dome. Woah! They are not messing around with that chilli! Really nice, probably my favourite, but still. Woah!
May or may not have bought a salted caramel bar for next Sunday, if I meet my thesis word count for the week. May or may not have bought my friends some rasberry nougat, and the kids some hard boiled sweets, and Warren a big fat slice of mango peach fudge. May or may not be nominated this year for Best Person in Existence Ever award.
And the point of this whole exercise? Mushroom and bacon on toast, of course.
I wasn't too bothered by the chocolate, didn't care either way if I had some, didn't have some. Surely didn't want to spend a couple of hours in my morning in pursuit of any - three weeks now until my first thesis draft is due, and I've been working all weekend to meet last week's target. And that's how it goes, doesn't it, the days are filled with things we need to do, places we need to be, people we have to meet with. As is the next day, and the next. And we do have to do all of those things, no question. They're important, a lot more important than some half-assed chocolate challenge.
And yet ... the ruts we find ourselves in. If the chocolate wasn't worth the effort, if the drive was most surely not worth the effort, the change of scene, the doing something different, the trying something new, that was. Now I have a new story and a new memory and a little kick in the cognitive backside out of the incessant routine of work and chores and study and more chores. And that little cognitive kick, it sticks around for a while, you know? Back at home, realising I had sent my can opener with my son to University this morning, don't even ask, and so couldn't have canned spaghetti on toast for my lunch, after all, I just pulled out the last few scraps of bacon and a big fat mushroom and fried them up with some herbs and butter and cream. The world wasn't set on fire, but those little pathways of creative neural networks that are somewhat atrophying as I age, they were given a little boost. I almost never cook for myself. I can never be bothered. And today, I didn't even think about it first, my brain just kind of solved the problem for me and got everything together while I stared at the walls. Thanks brain, it was delicious.
Enough of these moments, and who knows what creative path they'll lead down one day? Maybe even the one that leads to mushroom and bacon on homemade toast! Homemade ciabatta toast! But, hey. Let's not get too carried away. Let's just take this whole project one whisky fig piece of chocolate at a time.