One Liner Wednesday: Hammers and Nails

Abraham Maslow wrote in ‘Toward a Psychology of Being’ in 1962;

‘I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail’.

I think that’s something we’re all guilty of to a certain extent – we come at life with all the biases and preconceptions and stereotypical judgements inherent in our family, our culture and our society, as well as the cumulated tacit knowledge gained through our own life experience.

We tell ourselves we make objective, logical decisions based only on what we see before us, but without really thinking subjectively about why we see what we see; without really appreciating how often we actually respond emotionally to what we expect to see, and therefore react accordingly. It stands to reason that if the only tool we carry is a hammer, why on earth would we see anything in front of us but nails, because that’s what we’re equipped for dealing with at source?

So many of us carry around daily our invisible (yet potentially destructive) emotionally triggered hammers without even realising it, oblivious to anything other than our own distorted worldview and blindly believing it emphatically to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

For example I know I have a hugely problematic lack of trust of all people I perceive to be in authority over me – my life experience to date has taught me that people who claim to be acting for me generally have their own best interests at heart, not mine. From parents to past life-partners to politicians, I now expect to be let down as I have been before and often feel defensively that an aggressive pre-emptive strike is my safest option – I effectively aim to take them down before they take me.

But in recognising that pattern of expectation, in realising that it is in fact me being pre-armed with my invisible hammer that makes me see everyone in authority as a prospective nail to be hammered down and bent into shape, I can at least try to temper my reaction each time a similar situation arises, giving myself time to make a more informed choice about the reality of the perceived threat in front of me before whacking the hell out of some poor innocent bystander caught up in my twisted version of truth…

One Liner Wednesday

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A Hard Slog…

Life can feel like such a hard slog sometimes, where everything seems to be closing in on me, clamouring for attention until there is just no relief to be found anywhere. Right now I feel unsettled and on edge and out of sorts and plagued by a deep-seated tiredness. Not the satisfactory muscle-aching sting of physical exhaustion that comes from many hours of hard active labour, but the all-pervasive world-weary emotional apathy that permeates every fragile fibre of my being and seeps like rising damp into my soul.

Nothing seems to alleviate or ameliorate my current condition. I try applying all those creative little tricks and tips I’ve amassed over the years to cheer myself up and chivvy myself on when the going gets tough, but to no avail. Right now more than anything else I feel tired of feeling tired all the time. I go to bed tired, I toss and turn and struggle through too few hours of restorative sleep, and then I wake up again tired and unrefreshed. My whole body aches dull and dismal, my joints creak and cry out, my skin sulks sullen and stagnant.

I simply feel overwhelmed by it all, my brain busy trying to continue to fire on all four cylinders whilst not only has my internal battery effectively drained so low it has lost the ability to recharge itself but also my spark plugs have become constantly crudded up with extraneous crap. It feels as if I’ve lost my drive like some clapped-out old engine coughing and spluttering along on a rusty old chassis, elevating even the simplest and mundane of life’s everyday journeys into something more reminiscent of the Labours of Hercules.

But however depleted my drive may be at the moment, thankfully my determination has stayed impressively intact. So as ever I hold on to the hope that in time this too shall pass, the hard slog will eventually ease off and I’ll start to see the light at the end of the tunnel again. And in the meantime I’ll just get on with it all as best I can, travelling this long and winding road slowly but surely with the sole focus of not blowing a gasket, having my wheels fall off, or otherwise breaking down along the way… 🙂

Daily Promp: Elevate

Inspiration, Interpretation, Imagination…

Hmmm… I know so far I’ve only done one simple flower colour study so it’s very early days, but I’ve been reflecting ever since on how it felt this afternoon to be painting again after all these years. Physically I absolutely loved the feel of the brush in my hand, the steady flow of the paint, and the diluting wash of the water, however clumsy and awkward my technique may have been to begin with. I know that technically, patience and practice and perseverance (as with everything else in life) will help me improve in time.

But emotionally I can sense I’m still too tied up in how I feel something ‘should’ look when put to paper, as if the only criteria that mattered for judgement was to reproduce a near-photographic representation of my subject matter for scathing critique under extreme scrutiny. As if true-to-life matters more than true-to-me. Of course, if the purpose of my painting was indeed to achieve that level of accuracy (for example if I were painting someone’s portrait for them) I suppose then it really would matter?

But I think I simply want my subject matter to provide the baby-steps beginnings of my own creativity, be a spring-board point of inspiration that I can choose to interpret in my own way, letting my imagination decide what to do and where to run with it. After all I’m not 17 any more, I don’t have a set syllabus or class curriculum to follow, or for that matter a teacher or parent to please. Rather, I have the absolute freedom to please myself. I can be as abstract and off-beat and making-it-up-as-I-go-along as I want.

So why do I struggle so much with recognising and accepting that artistically creative adult reality? Maybe the question I need to be asking myself is – who am I actually painting for? Because maybe that’s partly what has been blocking me for all these years, maybe at heart I’m still that insecure little girl always yearning for approval from others, trying desperately to feel good enough but all the while knowing I will never be enough for some people no matter what I do…  🙂

In for a penny, in for a pound…

watercolour-paintswatercolour-setwatercolour-pad

In for a penny, in for a pound! Well, nearer ÂŁ20 actually, all in all, but it’s a good investment for my creative/ artistic future – I now have new watercolour paints, a couple of new brushes and some watercolour paper, and I’m determined one way or another to make a start of some sort today…

Partly what holds me back is the emotional insecurity of uncertainty – what if I’ve completely lost my touch? What if I’ve forgotten altogether how to paint? What if my imagination fails me and I look at the blank page in front of me and don’t know where the hell to start? What if I do make a start, then mess it all up? What if I fail…?

But logically I know that whatever I’ve forgotten, I’ll remember eventually. I know inevitably I’m going to be really rusty, and clumsy, and my painting is likely to be clunky and heavy-handed rather than loose and flowing to begin with. Thirty-six years is a long time in which not to have lifted a paintbrush – and I have to remember that whatever skill I may have had while I was at school developed only after a lot of practice…

I know as usual I expect far too much of myself, but I also know that if I don’t just strike while the iron’s hot and give it a go, I’ll be forever wondering what might have been if only I’d found the courage to try… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Glaring

One glaring omission from my personality seems to be a naturally happy gene – it’s not that I’m never capable of feeling happiness, more that it requires a deliberately proactive shift in my internal emotional mechanism for me to seek out those rare moments of satisfaction and joy and contentment and truly appreciate them for what they are – it feels to me like happy is just not my natural state of being.

I once began studying for a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, and in spite of really looking forward to the academic challenge, emotionally I struggled with the troubling feelings it raised within me right from the very start. Sitting in a class of bright, cheerful, positively motivated people, it soon became clear to me that – just as I’d always felt in childhood – my brain simply didn’t function in quite the same way as everyone else around me.

We completed a lot of personality tests and suchlike as part of our course, and as usual everything we explored seemed to indicate towards me having a depressive personality with bells on. It was as if my brainwaves resonate on a completely different frequency to the rest of the class – no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t fit in to the prescribed mould for successful students of this subject. And the more time passed, the more depressed I felt about it all, so I chose not to study my Master’s degree to completion – I gave it up for good, only one third of the way through.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I sit around all day permanantly wringing my hands in an oh-woe-is-me kind of way, or can’t function like any other adult in the outside world when I have to. It’s more that where the general level for feeling happiness sits flirtatiously within comfortable reach for the majority of the population, for me it remains consistently and tantalisingly elusive, well beyond my natural grasp, and can only be reached after a concerted effort on my part.

It feels to me that at heart my parabolic range of everyday emotional peaks and troughs plots overwhelmingly below average on a regular basis. In a world of Winnie-the-Poohs and Piglets and bouncy Tiggers, I’m definitely one of life’s Eeyores – but I suppose at least now I’m an Eeyore with a Post-Graduate Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Glaring

In Need of Understanding…

In Need of Understanding…

When depression feeds dark thoughts of dying

Fills my days with exhaustion and crying

And I’m struggling so bad

Give me space to feel sad

Understand that I really am trying…

I’m not someone for whom the art of living comes easily, and have struggled with recurring depression on and off since childhood. I’ve seen one psychiatrist (after surviving an overdose in my early twenties) and have visited countless psychotherapists over the years since, but however much I struggle to search out solutions to try to increase my psychological understanding (including earning a degree in Psychology and Sociology as a mature student), I still don’t feel any happier at source about life.

When it comes to medication I’ve tried multiple variations of anti-depressants since my teens and was even on valium for the longest time (when my children were small and I was stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship with their father, who I have since divorced), but I find that although chemical sedatives in general do tend to curtail the worst of my negative emotions, they also flatten out any slight spark of positive emotions, too, leaving me a bit like an inert zombie. So medication for me really is a last resort.

Instead these days I find it better just to sit tight through the depressive episodes when they come, whenever I can, knowing that however bad I feel it does always get better in time even if I do nothing – no medication, no therapy, just let it work itself out. But I do find it exhausting, trying to continue to behave as far as possible like a ‘normal’ adult in public for the duration. And I find I’m always really tired and emotionally drained at home while I’m feeling at my lowest.

So when I start to feel the familiar feelings gnawing in my gut I’ll try to fight it for so long, forcing myself to do those things in life I know I enjoy in the hope of avoiding falling in too deep. But sadly there usually comes a point where I have to just accept it’s upon me once more, and I go into a kind of emotional autopilot. I function as far as possible, and then I fall temporarily into limbo until I have to function again, and this pattern simply continues day in, day out until I start to feel properly human again.

The thing is, so many people try to tell me if I feel depressed I should be going to the doctor to get some medication, or be referred for therapy to ‘sort myself out’, but the trouble with that is that it feels like they’re telling me I need to be fixed, that I’m not good enough as I am. Because at my core this is who I am, who I have always been – I simply don’t know anything different, know no other way to be in the world. After all this time I know my own body, and more importantly I know my own mind – I know what works for me, and what I need most is understanding, and for people to trust me.

If things get bad enough for me that I need to seek medical help again, trust me I will. But the only person who knows when that point is reached is me. Luckily for me my husband is very understanding, as is my GP – both have put their trust in me, allowing me the space to feel whatever I feel, preparing to be my safety net should I fall unexpectedly but otherwise letting me try my best to get through it all in my own organic way… ❤

Daily Prompt: Substandard

One of the difficulties inherent in growing up always feeling ‘not good enough’ is that you can all too easily become too much of a perfectionist at heart, terrified of showing any less-than-excellent artistic by-product of your all-too sub-standard self. The risk of public failure feels too much to bear to the extent that sooner or later you might even stop trying – because if you don’t try (or so your reasoning tells you) you can’t possibly fail, and avoiding failure seems to be a far safer bet when it comes to a motivating factor than attempting the fragile futility of scoring success on a first attempt.

For years I wrote poetry I squirreled away in secret, showing no-one, and spent ages day-dreaming of being some kind of a creative visual artist avidly exploring the joys of drawing, painting, photography, needlework. But as I would never be good enough (or so I repeatedly told myself), what was the point of pursuing anything seriously? So instead I dabbled half-heartedly, frustrated, convincing myself I was absolutely fine paddling around in the shallows, pretending to myself it wasn’t that I was just too afraid to take the plunge and dive in deep…

And then soon after turning 50 I started blogging, and began sharing some of my ‘best’ photographs and poetry oh-so-very tentatively at first, images and words shyly declaring themselves apologetically as if with a discreet little throat-clearing cough. To my surprise and delight, people responded enthusiatically, so I tried regularly sharing some relatively incomplete creative experiences, decidedly unpolished works-in-progress still in the process of struggling onwards and upwards on a steep learning-curve.

And through not being so afraid to put myself out there I found I’ve improved as I’ve gone along in a decidedly trial-and-error hap-hazard process of playing around until I finally get it right, and it feels great. So now I’m ok sharing my sub-standard stuff, because after all everyone has to start somewhere, and you’re never to old to learn. And one lesson I’m learning loud and clear is that you don’t fail by falling down, but by not getting back up and trying again, time after time, for as long as it takes to get to where you ultimately want to be… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Substandard   

Folding Out the Light…

Folding Out the Light…

I feel my life is closing in on me

Like origami folding out the light

Forever turning inwards, silently

I sense my shrinking soul fade out of sight…

Depression makes an unrelenting thief

Steals everything but hope time and again

I let it be, held fast by stagnant grief

As soothing tides of tears wash through old pain…

But given time my sun does shine once more

Hard shell of bleakness cast off like a husk

As day by day life feels less like a chore

Bright dawns replace the monochrome of dusk

Till once again I feel life’s vibrant smile

And know I’m whole again – just for a while…