Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The mama's mama

Well, the holiday is over, my mum returned from her three month overseas trip last Saturday, and of course brought with her all the many and varied issues, problems and resentments that have plagued our relationship for so many years, particularly the last 10 months or so. And to be honest, I enjoyed her time away, almost as much as she did. I enjoyed having more time in my week, without feeling obliged to see her twice a week so she can be close to Indi. I have enjoyed not having to worry about offending her, not having to worry about her silent judgement and criticism of me (and my house and garden!), or her not-so-silent judgements either. I have enjoyed the space in my mind and heart not taken up by worry and hurt. And I especially enjoyed not feeling scrutinised and misunderstood as a new mother, and found that while she was away I was really able to grow and develop and find my groove as a mum, to really get the hang of it all and develop real strength and confidence in my abilities and my choices.

So now she is back, and I have decided to enter into a new phase in my relationship with her. The Buddhist reading I have been doing has enabled me to open my heart, to really see her as a person who is trying her best, whatever the outcomes, whatever the behaviours, and to understand that what I see as her shortcomings are more often than not the result of her own heavy load of pain and hurt that she has accumulated throughout her own difficult life. I have embraced the compassionate heart, and have found an ability to forgive her, and myself, that has eluded me for a long time. I have felt my anger flow away, replaced by a resolve to make things better.

After spending four hours with her yesterday, I came away tired and a little disappointed. It takes so much effort for me to spend time with her, to stop myself from sliding into unhealthy power struggles, to keep dipping into my spiritual well in order to maintain myself, to not let the heaviness bring me down. I guess I was hoping my new-found resolve and a good dose of affection would melt her coldness a little, and that I would inspire within her some sort of change.

But then, after coming home and making dinner and pondering it all while I chopped and stirred, I saw that to expect a change after one meeting was probably pretty naive. I can see that she is hurt and wounded, and that if there is going to be any change at all she is going to have to be made to feel very safe and loved, and this may take quite a while. And also, I realised that in the end, she may never change the way she behaves towards me, and that all I can do is keep holding on to my compassionate heart, to keep stoking the fires of my own joy and understanding, and to keep loving myself no matter how she treats me, no matter how she judges me. Ultimately, my goal is to love her openly, while not caring so much what she thinks of me. I need to be able to do this for myself, and for Indi too. It's important for me that Indi sees a loving strong bond between my own mother and myself, but ultimately, if that can't happen, it's important for me to model to Indi how to stay strong and true to yourself in the face of criticism, and to put yourself on top of the list of people's opinions you should care about.

Damn those Buddhists are on the ball!

Seriously, I know they have had two and a half thousand years to nut it all out, it's a long time, enough time to look at it from all angles and draft and redraft, but geez those Buddhists just have it down pat! It's amazing. I know that reincarnation is not everyone's cup of chicken noodle soup, but I personally can fit reincarnation into my own personal conceptual scheme of the universe, quite neatly. I wouldn't say I believe in it, but that goes for a lot of my spirituality - it is in that category of things I can easily grasp and understand and imagine being the case and even intuitively lean towards, but about which ultimately I have no real definitive idea. How can you? So in as much as there is never going to be any hard proof, I think I'm about as comfy as I'm gonna get with reincarnation. It's all good. For those science-worshipers who can't get their heads around it, no worries really, just act as though karma begins at birth and ends at death, and refers to the fruit you will reap as a result of your actions in this life, sweet or bitter as the case may be. Same net effect, in that you stop acting so much like an arse-hole and try to think about the effects of your thoughts, words and actions on those around you.

OK, so with the reincarnation thing out of the way (the biggest beef most people have about Buddhism, coz really, the rest is all just about how to be happy and nice), I've just gotta say how impressed and thankful I am that Buddhist wisdom is out there doing it's thang and making the world a better place for so many. I studied it pretty intensely a number of years ago (wow, almost a decade! fuck!), but became a little disillusioned with it after an unfortunate series of events involving a local Vipassana meditation group.

For those who don't know, Vipassana is a kind of meditation that has you totally focus on just the in and out of the breath (there are many many kinds of Buddhist meditation, where the focus is placed on various things), and which frequently involves extended silent retreats, generally 10 days for lay-people. Most people are really quite horrified at the thought of spending 10 days meditating silently, but from the moment I heard about it some kind of fire lit up in my heart, and I knew knew knew it was for me. And I was totally right! I just loved it. Really loved it. Did I mention that I loved it? Loved. I had, at the time, never felt more in love with the universe without the help of some good hard drugs. (Ahhhh, those were the days! *Sniff*) Gradually over the ten days my heart opened like a flower, and bloomed gloriously! I was amazed at the beauty of nature all around me, stuff most people, including myself, just walk past without noticing every day. The graceful and gentle twist in a perfect blade of grass. The seeds heads of the same grass, so symmetrically perfect, so intricate, just amazing. Grass! I was blissing out on the lawn! It was so much bloody fun, and showed me a way life could be, a way I could be, that was so beautiful, and so removed from the life of real difficulty I was leading at the time. I was not doing well at all, in many many ways, and Vipassana was truly a retreat for me, in the deepest sense. So, unsurprisingly, I offered to volunteer there, and did more retreats along the way. It became a very treasured part of my life for about six months. Then my dad died, and my world crumbled a little. I booked myself in for another retreat, knowing I really needed it this time, and packed my little granny jeep with my belongings and spent three hours on public transport getting there, plus a really long walk up a steep winding road with my jeep. Violins please! Anyway, I filled out the usual forms when I got there (they had a weird set of forms which asked all sorts of things) and to the question asking if I had done any other form of meditation or healing since the last retreat, I answered 'yes', since I had been doing pranic healing, a kind of reiki. Also, what issues I had been having, and I mentioned my dad dying. I had a private meeting with the meditation teacher, again the usual procedure before commencing a retreat, and he brought up the pranic healing. He asked who I had been working on, and I told him my dog, who had cancer. He ummed and ahhed (he was a man of few words), and then regretfully informed me that I would not be able to start my retreat. I was shocked and so disappointed, I REALLY needed this one to help me find my way in the world, I had a lot of shit to deal with and this was something I felt I really couldn't do without. He told me that until I decided to stop doing the reiki forever, and devote myself entirely to Vipassana meditation, I would not ever be able to do another retreat. Not only that, but I wouldn't even be able to spend the night there before going home, that I was to leave the premises ASAP! That my altered energies might disturb the other meditators!

To cut a long story relatively short(ish), I was really hurt and offended at being kicked out while so vulnerable. And with new and angry eyes, I saw that, despite the wisdom of their teachings, the Vipassana Centre and the way it was run was a bit cultish, and kinda creepy. I think for many years this experience turned me off Buddhism altogether. And it has taken this long for me to revisit it in any meaningful way, and to realise that despite the narrow-mindedness of one group's policies, Buddhism itself has so much to offer. My one real criticism of it that had nothing to do with any lingering resentments, and which I mentioned in a previous post, related to one of the four noble truth's being the goal of the cessation of suffering, which I thought was simplistic and didn't acknowledge the growth that comes out of most suffering and the yin/yang dualistic nature of the universe. The recent reading I have done has actually addressed this one point, and I have a new found understanding of Buddhisms perspective on suffering (well, according to one Buddhist nun anyway - Robina Courtin, in an interview with her that you can read here.) Here is the bit that shed new light for me:

Robina Courtin:
So therefore the Buddhist method then of getting rid of suffering and developing happiness is the method of learning—one, to know my mind well, and then learning through familiarity on the basis of having Buddha's model of the mind as my basis, learning to identify ever more deeply the neuroses and then learning every day—and it's the hardest job we'll ever do—to go against them, to deconstruct them, to let go of them.
So it's not, as I previously thought, aiming at just repressing all the suffering to attain the feel-good states of meditation. It's actually about digging deep into your heart, deconstructing the underlying causes of the pain (more often than not some kind of fear, if you dig deep enough), and then letting it go. So it totally acknowledges the growth and learning that suffering brings, and the analysis required to get there. I think the actual problem was that my understanding was limited, and that my own practice at the time was probably about desperately clinging to the bliss. When I think back, my life was such a mess back then, and I was going through so much pain every day, that I kind of became addicted to the blissful states I achieved through meditation, and began to cling to them. I didn't know how not to. For me back then, it would have been like asking a drowning person to not cling to the rope being offered to them. Or that's how it seemed. And one of the main lessons in Buddhism is to not cling. To not crave. No craving, no aversion, one of the most important phrases you'll hear at a Vipassana retreat!

But now, I'm a much much happier and well adjusted person. I've dealt with so many of my demons. I'm not desperate. So I think I'm actually in a much better place to really re-examine Buddhism, and look at it all again from this healthier place. Which is exactly what I have been doing over the last few days. And I have been truly delighted at the new perspective it has given me on my life. The peace, the awareness, the opening of the heart, and the thankfulness for all the little things. I have really enjoyed revisiting this old friend, and look forward to once more incorporating Buddhist philosophy into my own little eclectic collection of spiritual wisdom that I have nurtured for so many years.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Man

Looking at this photo just now, as I've been uploading it, I am struck firstly by how much of a spunk he is, and secondly by how much sharedness we have together, Mat and I. I have looked at his face for almost half of my life. There is so much 'us-ness' between us. Fourteen years of it. It's a long time. But then again, when we are old and grey and our wrinkled toes instinctively find each other in the bed for the six billionth time, fourteen years will seem like a drop in the ocean.

This man, this brilliant, unique, spectacular man, has shaped my life in ways I could never have predicted. Somehow I knew as I looked at him across the room one day, drawing feverishly, that he was a catch. But I had no idea just what kind of crazy adventure I was embarking on by choosing him as my man. We have had the most amazing highs together, so many of them, and ridiculously high! Our feet barely touched the ground for so long. Years. Two innocent, big hearted souls bursting with joy in the presence of each other, heads shaking in disbelief at the fact that feelings this intense were even possible! A cosmic dance of connection and union, two true opposites joining to form a magical whole.

We've also had our lows, as all couples do. Our feet did touch the ground, eventually. I in particular got bogged down in some muddy ground that I spent the next decade trying to get clear of. Mat was such a complex part of it all. In some ways, he held me up and kept me from totally drowning in my self-destructive urges. He loved me through it all, and stayed by my side when many would have left. He barely wavered. And in other ways at other times he took my hand and led me in even deeper, when I was barely staying afloat as it was. Relationships are funny like that.

We are such different people, Mat and I. Really complete polar opposites in so many fundamental ways! Sometimes I don't know how it has ever worked at all! He loves black metal and breakcore and all sorts of noise "music", and I love silence. The sounds of nature. Or Radio National. I love food and cooking and love planning meals and shopping for food at markets and cooking and eating, love love love it all, and he could quite happily subsist on toast and coffee and the odd pizza. I love travelling, he hates it. Seriously. He is the only person I know who gets stressed out about going away for the weekend, and would really rather not go, thank you very much. He is a true hermit, only emerging from his cave to play the odd gig now and then. I have dreams of travelling
Australia and the world; he could think of nothing worse. I really could go on with these diametrically opposed elements of our personalities, but really, there are so many that it would become a very boring post indeed. Suffice to say, alike we are not!

But beneath and beyond all of these surface level differences, our deepest and most dearly treasured values are almost completely matched. We share philosophies on life and people and morality. We stand united on everything political, environmental, social. The same things make us angry with the world, the same things fill us with hope and joy. We agree totally and utterly about how to parent Indi, what we feel is important in shaping her environment, in order to totally support and nurture her beautiful little body and soul. And that is just so wonderful. So wonderful. All of these things which are really important to us, all of these things which are a part of a life lived thoughtfully and from the heart, we share. And for that I am so very grateful.

But for some time now I have been feeling a little lost in amongst all of our great differences. I have been lamenting the lack of shared interests, and the resulting fact that a lot of the joys we both experience in life are experienced without the presence of the other. It has made me really sad. The other day Mat told me he thought I was unhappy, or stressed, most of the time. I reacted really badly to this, because I have been feeling more like I have found my place on this earth than ever before, now that I am a mother. I have felt more fulfilled, truly, than at any other time in my life. And it made me really sad that he wasn't seeing this. And I realised that a part of the reason was that many of my joys, my daily happinesses, occur without him. They happen in my garden, on my walks, when I connected spiritually. Or in my kitchen. All without him, all private. I questioned whether this was right. Whether a truly healthy relationship can exist between two people who really are so very different in terms of what they like to do with their days. Whether the infinite love two people both share for their daughter was enough of a 'shared interest' (if you can call it that) to be enough? It has been really hard having these thoughts.

But then, when I really really think about it, in the areas that matter, in the way our hearts dance in our breasts, in the way our eyes sparkle and gleam with love and joy, we are so united. We may DO different things, without the other, but when it comes down the the important stuff, we are right there, side by side. At the end of the day, I would rather, much rather, be with a person who has interests really different to mine but who shares my deepest values, than with someone who likes to do the same things as me but doesn't agree with my core philosophies on life.

I think that relationships are complex beings, and as the old cliche goes, they are hard work. They really are. But when I look back at the relationship between Mat and I, I feel so blessed, so awesomely lucky to have found someone so caring, so loving, so passionate, and so truly unique. Anyone who knows Mat understands what I mean. He is a very special person. A real gem of a human being. I don't know anyone who lives by their morals as closely as he does, who lives so thoughtfully, so authentically, so earnestly. I don't know anyone else who has such a drive to create and be creative. And I don't know anyone else who has been so unwaveringly supportive, who has stood by my side, the whole bloody time, with love just pouring out of him. Not only am I the luckiest woman alive, to have him, to be with him, but my daughter is the luckiest girl in the world to have him as a father. He is the most loving, devoted and joyful father I have ever seen, ever!

I am crying as I write this, as I declare to the world, once again, how much I love him.

Mat, my cosmic partner, my true best friend. I love you so much! Thank you so much for every minute, my sweet one. I am truly blessed. You have shown me love beyond anything I could have even fantasised about before I met you. You have expanded my mind and my heart, and introduced me to whole new worlds. I continue to learn and be inspired by you. And I couldn't have dreamed up a better father for my child. I feel like the queen of the world, living by your side, your cosmic wife.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Strawberry Patch on Wheels

Yep, that's right, I'm currently in the middle of creating the world's first completely portable strawberry patch. How? Why? Let me explain...

A couple of weeks ago I walked to the supermarket, and I bought way too much to carry home, especially with an incredibly cute eight kilos of little girl strapped to my body, so I brought home my shopping in one of those big metal supermarket trolleys. Huge ungainly things that they are! I had such trouble bringing it all home, they are so HEAVY (I think these days trolleys are actually larger than they used to be -probably so we can be tricked by the evil supermarket tycoons into buying more - they are so deep I almost fall into them trying to get the last little packets out of the bottom. I have visions of little old ladies taking dives into them as they overbalance, their legs waving around as they wait to be helped out.) and the footpaths are all much more uneven than you would ever notice just walking along. I spent the whole walk home trying to prevent the damn thing from either rolling onto the road, the nature strips or banging into fences. Do others have this issue? Maybe it's just me. Anyway, it was annoying. So the thing has been sitting in our front yard since then, waiting for me to take it back. It just didn't seem to be happening. It wasn't that I didn't go on lots of walks, in the direction of the supermarket. I went on heaps. I could have done it multiple times. But my general inclination for some reason just didn't seem to be leaning towards hauling this massive, cumbersome, LOUD contraption back from whence it came. Especially empty. At least a full trolley represents the promise of delicious treats and wonderful ingredients to unpack at the other end. An empty trolley is just dead weight. Not appealing at all!

Strawberries, I hear you ask? Why all this faffle about trolleys? Yes, well recently some dear friends who were moving out of their rented home gifted us with about 30 strawberry plants from a wonderful patch they had created, but were now leaving. I was so stoked!! I had always dreamed of growing a whole strawberry patch, but for some reason in my mind it was placed in the category of really awesome things other people did but not me. (I really must minimise the number of things in that category, life's too short!) So anyway, I went ahead and dug out a lovely section of lawn and created my own lovely patch, and planted away. They all looked very happy in their new home, and my mouth watered as I imagined the bountiful bowlfuls of delicious homegrown organic strawberries that we would be surrounded by. Yay!

Until I did a little research (well, actually I just mentioned my new patch to Tania as we sat in the sun in her lovely backyard, sipping herbal tea) and discovered that strawberries need a raised mound to grow well, with lots of drainage. Bugger! My patch was not only un-raised, it was a kind of a ditch. Hmmm. Not good. I wanted the best for these strawberries, I wanted them to really thrive, and living in a ditch just wasn't gonna cut it for them. Also, I had recently been inspired (as per a few blog posts ago) to really devote a big area of our garden to veggies. And really, the strawberries, although lovely and wonderful and delicious and marvellous, were taking up a huge piece of prime vegie land. I knew I had to make a decision, and it wasn't gonna be easy.

And then one day, as I sat on my front porch and looked out over my garden, and pondered (as I do often) I had a brilliant idea. I could take this here godawful trolley, line it with the bit of shadecloth I had sitting in the garage, fill it with soil and compost and all manner of lovely things that strawberries love to dine on, and turn it into a planter! AND, not only could I plant them in the top, as no doubt you are imagining right now, but I could also poke holes in the shadecloth along the *vertical sides* of the trolley, and grow strawberries up the SIDES! Pure genius! I almost saw a flash of light come out my ears as this thought formed itself in my brain. The whole darned THING could be covered in lovely delicious strawberries! Yay!

So it's underway. This afternoon while Indi and Mat sat on a blanket on the grass, chatting and singing, I spent an hour lining the trolley with the shade cloth and hauling into it a bunch of home made compost, potting mix, sheep manure, blood and bone, sulphate of potash and a bit of pine mulch and mixing it all together. Dr Chops was fascinated and kept sniffing around and investigating. And then Indi got sick of it all and wanted a feed and a nap, so we left it at that, and now we have a trolley filled with soil on the lawn. My neighbours now have even more reason than before to think I am mad. But oh well. Will *they* have a strawberry patch on wheels? No, no they won't.

Friday, August 1, 2008

This is fucking HARD!!

I am really struggling today. This week. Have been for a little while. It's partly the sleep deprivation thing. But I don't think it's just that. It's so many things. It's partly the lack of freedom thing, I think. The lack of anything even close to the ability to be able to just say "I'm driving to the beach" or "I'm going to the pool" or "I'm gonna lie in bed and read all day". What I am feeling is so multilayered I don't even know where to start, really. So it's partly lack of freedom. It's also partly not being able to bloody drive anywhere greater than 10 minutes away, coz Indi has a hatred of being strapped into anything for longer than that, be it car seat, highchair, or pram. It's also Indi needing to feed to sleep unless she is in the Ergo. So either I am lying in bed with her, or she is feeding on the breastfeeding cushion on my lap while I'm at the computer, or I'm walking around with her. I have enjoyed each of these sleep-related experiences with her, to varying degrees (in increasing order) but I think I am just tired of it all! She naps three times a day, and I think I'm just dessicated by the monoculture of options I have available to me. I'm sick sick sick of lying in bed waiting, hoping she will fall into a deep enough sleep for me to pull away and leave. It usually takes so long! And then she only sleeps in bed without me for about 20 minutes at most. I am sick sick sick of being on the net for hours a day while she sleeps on me, not being able to go get a drink or go to the toilet, or let my cat in, or anything. I am sick to bloody death of walking around the streets around my house, I think I could name each and every plant my neighbours have in their yards by now. Plus I'm just so tired, and my knees and hips are so sore. These things, which gave me such pleasure a while ago, now have lost their ability to sustain my spirit, and instead have been draining me, depleting me. I am getting frustrated with all of it. Maybe if we could just have a day at the beach every now and then I'd cope better. I used to visit the ocean as a wonderful way to connect to my spiritual world and work through my issues, a way to let the wind sweep away all my stress and scrub me clean. But I can't do it. We can't drive to the beach, and a train ride to the nearest ocean beach and back is too long to be done in a day, and we just can't afford to go away for the weekend. If I was rich I'd hop on a plane (I reckon Indi would fly better than she travels in the car) and fly to tasmania or something. I don't need warm, I need ocean. Not calm pretty bay beaches, I need rollicking crashing wave action. Hence the pictures in this post. They are a pathetic attempt to connect to the energy I need and miss so much, my ocean friend.
Sorry for the rant. But I don't want this blog to be a filtered pretty happy shiny unrealistic slice of my life. I want it to be real, and I want to be honest.