Things I don’t know about myself, yet

It’s been almost a month since I started my version of a serious dose of healthy living. It hasn’t involved planning to run a marathon or becoming a life member of a tennis club, or taking up jelly-wrestling or even joining a gym… but it has involved being more thoughtful about food and alcohol, consuming less caffeine than before, and certainly less alcohol than previously. I’ve been trying to take vitamins and minerals that will aid me in my quest to treat menopausal symptoms. I’ve eaten small handfuls of almonds, lots of apples and bananas, salmon, hummus, sparkling water, green tea, licorice tea, pine nuts, grapes and mandarins. I’ve eaten other things too -but I’m trying to be mindful of what I’m putting into my body and attempting to maximise the good stuff while minimising the bad stuff (caffeine, alcohol, cakes, chocolate, and soft creamy cheeses and glasses of port…)

As I’ve said, some of this is about trying to mimimise the symptoms of menopause and some of it is about trying to be sensible when it comes to food and alcohol. So for most of the past month I’ve had very little to drink – and part of that is to see what changes when I make a change; but some of this is about the whole self discovery thing – will not drinking mean that the little ups and downs of life are more obvious because they’re not being numbed by a glass of wine to ‘take the edge off”.

I really enjoy coming home after work and sitting on the back deck talking with my husband about the day while he has a cigar and I have a glass of wine. So for the past 3 or 4 weeks I haven’t been doing that. I’ve been sitting there with a cup of tea or a cold drink – but not my usual glass of wine. Or winding down on a Thursday evening when I have the house to myself – just me & the dog, sitting on the couch watching all my previously recorded programmes with a quiet glass of pinot noir. Or on a Friday night, having take-aways and a quiet glass of wine while watching Super 15 Rugby.

And let’s face it, it hasn’t been that much of a big deal going without. I know I can have a glass of wine whenever I choose to, but I’ve made a conscious effort to not drink, just to see what happens, to see what impact it has, to see what I might learn from this experience. And right now, it’s hard to tell exactly what I’ve learnt.

I’ve learnt things by reading about alcohol and sobriety – that it’s easy to look at other people and say “I don’t drink like they do” – “I don’t drink that much or do some of those things” but what concerns me are the similarities I have found. The drinking to dull the pain a little, to make the world go away just a little bit, as a way of taking ‘time out’. I’ve learnt that if you use alcohol to dull the pain, when you take the alcohol away, the pain/issues/discomfort is still there and then needs to be addressed – either with alcohol (as a band aid – to make it go away in the short term) or by coming to terms with the issues that cause us to drink in the first place. That’s where the self-discovery comes in. But I feel like a bit of a cheat – because I’ve been able to learn from the learning of others (who have written about their experiences with alcohol) rather than having had to learn those lessons directly. Or maybe I just haven’t had to face any real issues (of any depth) as yet. I don’t feel about alcohol like I’ve just lost the love of my life, or that I’m facing a relationship break-up or anything of any emotional significance. Which is a good thing (obviously) but that another difference I’m observing about my relationship with alcohol compared to the women who I’ve read about – who felt that in giving up alcohol they were losing their greatest love. I understand that (I think) but have’t experienced that for myself. …..

I feel like I should be overjoyed by this. Like I should celebrate this realisation and how lucky I am (lucky?). Is that what this is all about – Luck? Really? Doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge all of the counselling I went through in my thirties. Coming to some understanding regarding childhood sexual abuse,  realising that I was angry with my father for his anger, and his lack of meaningful relationship with me (his lack of relationship-awareness on any level) and for a time I was angry with my mum for not protecting me from my dad. Angry with mum for putting up with her relationship with dad. Then later, after my mother’s health deteriorated, realising I was angry with my brothers for their lack of focus on mum, their lack of ongoing meaningful relationship with her. And all of this I initially experienced as depression (anger turned inwards) and later had a learn to be angry, learn to deal with the anger and then learn to grieve what I perceived I’d lost.

That was a bit serious, that last paragraph. But what I was trying to get to was – am I lucky that alcohol isn’t the love of my life (as it may well have become) or is it not luck, but the hard work of previous decades that has lead me to where I am today – facing alcohol, or a lack of alcohol, without the heartache that some experience. In order to put my current alcohol ‘stuff’ into some perspective means acknowledging also the historical aspects of my life that one tends to downplay: depression, sexual abuse, strained relationships with family members, a sense of abandonment from age 5 (that I didn’t understand until I was over 40), issues with fidelity and/or a lack of fidelity (and therefore trust) in previous relationships.

Ok, I think that’s more than enough self-disclosure for one day. And you (my lovely blog) are a medium I’ve chosen to help me reveal myself to me – so hopefully I’ll be able to read back and see ‘oh, that’s why I always struggled with that’ and make connections between points in my life that are very probably related (like a track on a map) but I haven’t yet made the connection between those points. I hope that’s what I’ll find. And this is my next step, and I’ve made a start. And I feel good about that 🙂

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My Psyche ‘Ethel’ and why she’s a Bitch

So I was thinking today about my psyche and I’ve decided to call her Ethel. She is a master of sabotage and just when I think I’m making progress, flexing my cognitive muscles – almost able to put a moment of clarity into sensible words – along comes Ethel and she’ll hide a phrase behind one of the little fluffy clouds that inhabit my conscious mind. My conscious self is a little like a big open garden with small shrubs and trees scattered here and there – it looks pretty and random but get up close and you’ll find those cute shrubs and trees were planted with precision and they hide a multitude of rubbish. That Ethel, she hides trash behind the trees and shrubs. If my brain is a clear blue sky with cute little fluffy clouds – along comes Ethel, just when the thought process is about to peak at a point of epiphany, she’ll come along a steal a phrase or a sentence so I can no longer find it, and she’ll hide it somewhere. And locating a hidden object… well that’s like trying to find a proverbial needle in an ocean of haystacks. [Interesting all these visual analogies!] And if a picture paints a thousand words and I’m in the midst of creating Botticelli’s Venus, then Ethel will attempt to steal vital components of that picture and squirrel them away somewhere until all I’m left with is a cubist version of the painting that was The Birth of Venus that now resembles sand and sea and shells – not a Venus in sight.

I’ve been reading about sobriety and the more I read, the more I find similarities with others who drink – drinking for the same reasons – to make the real world go away. And what is it about the real world I don’t want to face? Nothing obvious springs to mind (like a happy gazelle). [That bloody Ethel’s been here again.] Except some days I don’t like me all that much – but doesn’t everyone feel that way? – or maybe just everyone who drinks?!! And what is it we’re trying to forget or get away from? Most of the time I sort-of like me… that is to say, I don’t dislike me – is that enough? And most of the time I actually like my life – the person I share my life with, the house we live in, our surroundings, my job and friends… and sometimes my family. Oh, was that a clue? I have issues with my family perhaps? Really? yeah probably. It’s not like I see them all that often. I wonder if they judge me – in fact I sort of expect them to judge me. Well certain family members that is. Why do I expect them to judge me? It comes from having a Christian background – like I grew up thinking it was ok to judge others, everyone did in Christian circles (didn’t they?) and so I expect that they still do. And I know I used to. But that was then. Now I don’t choose to judge others and nor do I want to be judged. I’m not saying my family is judgemental – I’m just saying I’m afraid of being judged by a few who have been judgemental in the past (as I was).

These days I don’t see life in the blacks and whites I used to. I see a continuum of many, many shades of grey. Some have a lot of pink in them, or blue or yellow, but all of them are grey (or some varying shade thereof) and I’m ok with that. It follows the thought that unless you’ve walked in my shoes, don’t judge me. Who am I to judge someone else if I haven’t lived their life, or felt their feelings, their joy or pain, without experiencing their experiences, from their perspectives, their history, their culture, their worldview? Who the hell am I to judge anyone?

And having borne the brunt of others’ judging, why would I do that to my friends or to others I care about. I know the hurt it causes and I don’t want to replicate that.

So Ethel’s a bitch because she steals thoughts from me when I’m on the brink of self realisation. And I fear being judged, and more specifically, being judged by my family – so there’s a realisation she hasn’t managed to hide from me. And then there’s you (my lovely blog) who let’s me say whatever I want to say, without fear of recrimination, and then when I read it back, I discover stuff about myself -regardless of Ethel’s attempts to sabotage my thoughts. It’s a bit of a win/win really. And all this self-realisation in the privacy of my own little blog…. which is in turn shared on the inter-web with millions of people. Perhaps I am crazy!

I have to start somewhere – it might as well be here!

You know how sometimes people who are quite tall are referred to as “Shorty”, or a dog with stripes is named “Spot” – well that’s why I’ve called myself Wise Woodpidgeon – because I often seem not to be, wise, that is. That’s not to say I’m never wise – but mostly people who may think that I am, will, after a period of time, come to realise that I’m not. So people only tell me I’m wise when they are getting to know me – which I guess is fair enough.  To know me is to love me? Probably not – but let’s say I have friends. Perhaps not as many as you, but a variety none the less. Am I a good friend? Dunno. Probably not – I have issues with staying in contact with my friends. Life is really busy and there are such a variety of wonderful people out there (and they are just the ones I know) that I feel stunted into doing nothing most of the time. Like getting over the inertia of actually doing something, making contact with someone is just too hard. Maybe that’s depression for you – it’s too hard to do something so I’ll sit here and do nothing. A bit like Eeyore really. Well, can’t say that now can I? I’ve started a blog. Not to keep in contact with the friends I already have – but to make more (maybe)… (possibly)… or not. But I DO have this little online secret that’s like journalling on a new level. Here’s hoping it makes you smile. It makes me smile to begin writing – so there, we’re over the inertia already!

I know I have friends, whom I often don’t see for periods of time. But’s let’s face it, I have family I don’t see for sometimes long periods of time… so let’s just be clear. What I’m trying to get to in a roundabout way, and not very concisely I might add, is that actually I’d like to think that my friends will remember me not just for the dumb things I’ve said. Those unwise words. The stupid comments that you think about later and go “Huh?” Like where did that come from? Oh yeah, might as well be straight up about that too – I can be really random. It’s not specifically a choice, more like that’s how my mind is arranged, or possibly not arranged, or unraveled or something. My mind is a bit like a cloud – it feels thin in patches, fluffy, not managed, unmanageable (you try managing a cloud), like scrambled eggs but with less substance!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was writing about what I’ll be remembered for. Hopefully some of it will be funny things – I remember having laughed a lot over the years – finding it hard to remember what we laughed at (other then me). This is not meant to sound somber – I don’t feel somber, just thoughtful. I hope I’ll be remembered for some good things and in relation to some good times. I hope so.

I seem to not have much of a memory these days – I know there have been times in my life when my brain has worked a lot better than it does currently, and I’m ok with that. Mostly. So I’m trying to do the right thing by my brain and my body. I have cut down on my caffeine consumption and stopped my alcohol consumption for a time. I’m trying to eat well. (My clothes are telling me this is going ok so far.) I’m taking vitamins and minerals, trying to eat salmon regularly (you know, amino acids etc) and small but regular handfulls of almonds, and hummus and even some green tea (-can’t say I’m not trying). So I’m hoping that this putting healthy stuff into my body will have a positive impact on my brain. That and sodoku!

Ok, the truth is, I have been aware of menopausal symptoms. I don’t want to say ‘suffering from’ coz that automatically brings in some kind of victim thing and some days the word victim feels like a warm cloak against the harsh realities of life. However, most days, especially today – when I am aware of the external  changes happening in my garden as the season slips from winter into a cool but crisp spring, I don’t want to see myself as a victim. I want to see what I can do about NOT being a victim. Hence the changes in diet, caffeine and alcohol.

So menopause is the reason for change – that makes no sense – The Change being the reason for a change… the cloud that is my brain is finding that thought too hard. I feel a bit like Winnie the Pooh who when confused, would turn to food and the comfort of enjoying a ‘little something’ to distract him. Yes, I often see myself in Winnie the Pooh, but the point is, I’m trying to NOT turn to food or a glass of wine, or port, or gin… or anything food or beverage-related to seek relief from whatever it is that I seek relief from. I didn’t really know until just now, that I was trying to seek relief from anything – except sometimes I use food or alcohol to dull the whatever it is so that life is easier. There, I’ve said it. I have in the past, used food and/or alcohol as a bandage to cover the whatever-it-is that needed a bandage. And right now I don’t want to keep doing that.

I’ve been reading about sobriety. And menopause. I know what you’re thinking – it’s all just one big party at my house these days! But seriously, maybe it’s time to address some of the issues that have dogged me for too long. And maybe this blog is a start to doing just that. Looking at the issues; having to face them without the use of my usual bandages to make them better. Maybe that’s what this is really about. Not my fluffy cloud-like brain, not the wine I have enjoyed often for a long time, not food, maybe it’s actually about the issues. So if you don’t want to hear anymore – and I totally understand your not wanting to – then maybe don’t keep reading coz it might get messy. In fact I have no way of knowing how messy, untidy, unraveled things are going to get but I think it’s only fair to let you know it might get that way. Coz that’s what being real is all about. Like a wild garden – disorganised, unpredictable… maybe unraveled [I seem to keep coming back to that word] but maybe I will uncover some delicate plants not often seen in these parts, find hidden gems, or even not gems, just little sparkly things which bring a smile to one’s face. A forgotten treasure perhaps. So feel free to come and explore with me. Or not.