Just because it’s beautiful
Just because it’s beautiful
In addition to the mop-up operation following grass-gate and the need to repudiate fake news (see previous post), this week has been full of office politics at work (a game I have never mastered) and hard labour in the house and garden (our own fault for buying into the dream of acquiring a run-down cottage). Fatigue has crept into my bones and I must face the reality I’ve been so stubbornly denying …….I am no longer a spring chicken. This begs the question, what happens to energy as we get older? I eat in the same quantities so the same amount of energy is going in. I’m not getting any fatter, so where does it go?
On the plus side we now have a lovely place to sit and eat in the garden. I took advantage of this to have my breakfast the other morning before work. What a joy to sit beneath a beautiful blue sky eating eggs with bright yellow yokes and watching the hens going about their business.
The trouble is as I sat there I started noticing the next ten jobs lining up to be done. The garden wall is leaning ominously, there are weeds in the flowerbeds, there are piles of wood that need chopping, an old oil tank needs removing…………….. you get the picture. And then I start feeling fidgety again.
The same thing happens if I sit on the bench at the top of the garden that has a glorious view over the opposite hillside. I can’t help noticing the half-finished vegetable patch I’m sitting in with yet another crop of weeds marauding through it.
How do I overcome this? I used to be able to switch off no bother. So why do I now pressure myself to get everything done? Where has this ‘must finish’ feeling come from? Is it part of my general anxiety? How do I banish it once and for all? It’s stupendously annoying.
It seems I must re-learn patience. Strangely there does seem to be a spot in the garden where I am able to practice this ancient art. It’s like a wormhole in space, a still point in the vortex of daily life. It’s a spot about midway up the garden and next to the chicken run. I’ve found that if I get a camping chair out and just sit there I can do just that, just sit there. The weird thing is that the chickens are not in the run. They’re roaming freely around the garden. Invariably they come and bumble about around me, carrying out their chickeny activities at my feet or even under my chair. I’m sure they would do this wherever I chose to sit but it seems that only this spot will do for me. Just like Kermit’s nephew, halfway up the stairs is the stair where I sit.
It’s a start.
Spot the chickens……..
I have made a terrible error of judgement. In a bid to cure my debilitating social anxiety I’ve followed the advice offered on numerous psychological websites and pushed myself out there. What better I thought than to put myself in a position where I couldn’t shy off, I would have to attend. And why not become part of the life of my new village too? So I joined the Community Council. I can hear you take a sharp intake of breath and see your heads sadly shaking from side to side. What was I thinking?
Of course, the inevitable has happened. There’s a reason why so many murder mysteries are set against the background of village politics. Miss Marple was definitely onto something. Midsomer is awash with corpses. Even the world-wide superstar JK Rowling and the not so famous but very entertaining Simon Pegg have waded into this arena recently with ‘A Casual Vacancy’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ respectively. But still I did not heed their warnings.
My next door neighbour has authored and pushed a rather defamatory and divisive petition in order to get her own way over one particular issue. She has been peddling misinformation from the gossip-laden platform of her cafe. Yes folks, I live next door to a fake news channel. Now what does a socially anxious person do when stuck between her ridiculously self-inflicted duties as a community councillor and her desire to not fall out with the neighbours? Especially when said neighbour has promised to (eventually) remove the hideously ugly 4 metre high watch tower/shed they built right next to your fence. Of course I start brooding. Brooding. Brooding. I walk through the beautiful surrounding countryside with green fields, wooded valleys, babbling brooks and I’m still brooding. I try to read a novel, I’m brooding. I start cleaning the house, I’m brooding. I try to watch a movie, I’m brooding. What can be done?
Then I go to hang out with the hens.
They follow me up the garden chattering and fussing, keeping pace, overtaking, falling behind. I get a chair out of the shed and we all settle down. I sit with a cup of tea and just watch. They always gather round me for a while. First they wait to see if I’ve brought any treats. Then they start nibbling the grass and scratching in the dirt round and about me. Then one or two will settle down for a while and sun bathe or preen right by my feet. When Doc, my confessed favourite, lies down preening beside me, she emits this incredibly soothing sound. It’s somewhere between a cat’s purr and the low, percussive sound that a pigeon sometimes makes.
There’s something about watching them all going about their business that really tethers me to the Earth. I stop brooding. I focus on the hens, on the plants they’re shuffling amongst, on the soil they’re scratching, on the tiny creatures they’re seeking, on the birds chirruping in the hedges, on the clouds passing over and the brilliant, then dull, then brilliant light that illuminates the whole scene. Peace descends.
Hallowed be my chickens.
Let me tell you a tale about hens and histrionics. For most of the time when I’m at home the hens are roaming free in the yard, but there is one exception. When the buzzing orange machine that is our lawnmower comes out, I shut the hens in their run for their own safety. This has the same outcome every time.
Our garden is quite steep and I always start mowing from the bottom which is furthest from their run. Rita, Sylvia and Doc start making low grumbling noises at this point but the noise and commotion grow as I get nearer to their coop. By the time I’m halfway up the yard they are sounding alarm calls that I’m sure make the neighbours think they’re being slaughtered. They bekerrrk bekerrk so loud I’m sure I must be traumatising them. When I get to mowing around their run they’re stamping around in their coop and screaming that the sky is falling.
And then I finish. Immediately I turn off the dreaded machine they stop calling and I let them out of their run. They casually step out looking for all the world like nothing has happened then blithely start nibbling the grass the same as always.
Once again I see the parallels between our worlds. As a person prone to anxiety I sometimes have days when the alarms are going off in my head so loud that I’m unable to function in the normal way. Over the years I have called these days various things to try and normalise them. I’ve called them ‘duvet days’, ‘jarmie days’, ‘black dog days’, and a few other things that never quite stuck. But now I think I’m going to call them ‘lawnmower days’. Hopefully this will help me keep perspective.
As anyone who suffers from bouts of anxiety or depression knows, when you do mercifully emerge out of the other end it can sometimes be difficult to understand how you could have been quite so immersed in the first place. I spent many years battling suicidal thoughts and now my main concern is that I don’t have long enough left!
These days when I crash my recovery rate is much quicker and I’ve got used to the idea that these thoughts will pass (thank you mindfulness for this if nothing else). I now understand that I’m a passenger on this crazy, beautiful world. I cannot control it or my mind, but I can roll with it, making whatever small contributions I can, until a brighter day emerges. By calling these uber-anxious times lawnmower days, I can now keep in mind my histrionic hens.
On further reflection, maybe I should have paid more attention when I read Chicken Little to the kids.