“Ah, sleep it is a blessed thing.” (Rhyme of the Ancient mariner.)

Kate and the dog, after a busy day.

Kate and the dog, after a busy day.

Sleeping is a beautiful thing.

I speak as a person who can’t always manage it. Today I’m singing, chatty, smiling at everyone I meet, happy, positive, busy…I slept last night!  I hadn’t realized how badly I was feeling until today when I’m  feeling so good.

I know with my head how sleep is fundamental. Fundamental to our health, our well-being, our motivation, our energy… do I need to go on?

But today I feel it in my body, my mood, my level of activity.

The dog could even read and still sleep.

The dog could even read and still sleep.

Do you sleep well? Do you take it for granted? Do you wake up, after a good night’s sleep feeling rested and renewed? And do you take a moment to be grateful? Light a candle sometimes, in gratefulness? I’m quite boring- I nag my friends to be grateful for their ability to sleep. I simply cannot comprehend what it must be like to lie down, close your eyes and…go to sleep, every night. Just like that! Even when I’m sleeping better, I never go to sleep quickly and I almost never sleep for more than four or five hours at a time.

For so many years I lived with not enough sleep. Mornings I struggled to wake up, to get going, to get to work, was late regularly.  I struggled through the day. Most times my main aim was to stay awake. Couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate, rarely felt alert, energetic, keen. Didn’t make longterm plans, day to day was enough. Life  was hard. I struggled to get out of negative to zero. Get into the positive? Seemed impossible. I don’t remember ever sleeping easily and well.

The man would tell you he can sleep anywhere! Oh the envy.

The man would tell you he can sleep anywhere! Oh the envy.

Why did I continue like this? Think about common attitudes to sleep. I accepted the view “live with it, if you think about it you only make it worse”.  Or, “anyone can sleep, it’s all in your mind.” Or, “you sleep more than you think”.  And the criticisms: ” You’re always tired, You’re always late,…” Unless you’ve experienced chronic lack of sleep, you cannot understand. It’s the truth of “walk a mile in my shoes.”

For whatever reason, I lived with it. With chronic lack of sleep, with exhaustion, with poor concentration, with poor motivation- after all, why want to do something when I’d be too tired anyway?

One day, on the way to work, late as usual, I heard a specialist in sleep disorders interviewed. He described me. He described how I couldn’t sleep- hours to go to sleep, difficulty waking, feeling jetlagged all day… and named it as a sleep disorder!

Revelation! If I had a sleep disorder, then I could do something about it! It could be fixed! Maybe I would sleep and maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t always be so tired.

What to do? I found a hypnotherapist. One session and that night, I slept! I spent the next day in a state of wonder. I knew I could do anything. Fly to the moon, climb Everest, anything was possible. And I wondered. Did people who slept well feel like that every day? Was life that easy? That much fun?

Pusska liked to keep some books handy, just in case she couldn't sleep.

Pusska liked to keep some books handy, just in case she couldn’t sleep.

Did better sleep continue? Am I now one of the fortunate ones who go to bed and go to sleep? Well no, it hasn’t been that simple. There have been periods when my life has been calm and sleep has been better. There was one scary and difficult time when sleep was disrupted completely, but that’s another story.

I understand myself better now. Such self understanding has taken sixty-six years and several years with a wonderful therapist. Self understanding, growth and change don’t come easy. Having now experienced times when I am rested I have great compassion and admiration for my sleep deprived self. How did I survive? How did I hold down jobs? Even turning up for work was an achievement. I can forgive myself for so much.

Today? I continue to learn about and to understand chronic insomnia.; to be grateful for the simple, necessary things of life; and to cultivate those practices that aid my rest.

For the times I’m rested and refreshed I shall be forever grateful. And for those other times? I’ll accept them and not worry. Today I know that if the non-restful times continue I seek help and I know that I will be helped. And I’m grateful for wisdom and experience that has given me tools so I’m no longer powerless or helpless.

Sleep comes naturally for cats.

Sleep comes naturally for cats.

What are some of the things I’ve learnt? Knowing when to ask for help and being able to accept it and having the courage to be vulnerable and humble enough to learn.

 

 

Image? What image?

My essence?

My essence?

“Kathryn, you need to be careful. You don’t want to present the wrong image,”

so advised one of my friends. I couldn’t disagree. He went on to say, “Be careful you’re not coming across as untidy or disorganized or chaotic or…” Umm, where was he going with this?

Then “The image you want,” he continued “is of the well groomed woman, sitting with a drink in her hand, beautifully dressed…” I could understand what he was getting at. That I needed  a certain look, a look that conveyed the successful, affluent career woman. At least, I think that’s what he meant.

Yes, but I’m not like that! I’m not arguing against the successful and confident. I’m questioning how that’s presented. And I’m questioning that whole idea of  choosing a deliberate “image”. I want authenticity. I want whatever I write or present to come from my heart, to be as authentically me as I can. I want you to see me as I truly am, not some manufactured version.

That's more like it!

That’s more like it!

And I’m not always well-groomed. I’m seldom dressed in leisurewear, lounging somewhere picturesque, sipping a drink. I’m more often grubby, dirt under my nails because I’ve been working in the garden; or it’s mid-afternoon and I’m in my pyjamas- or what passes for my sleepwear; or I’m wearing my oldest, daggiest and favourite clothes (often hand-me-downs from this friend).

A Blogging 101 prompt is to write a post to my ideal reader. I’ve been thinking about that. My ideal image of myself? My ideal reader? The introduction to blogging workshop I went to, advised us to have a narrow focus. This makes sense. It’s easy then to imagine my ideal reader- someone who shares that narrow focus. I would know who to aim at.

You know, I’m not sure I want agreement always. I want to encourage discussion, I want to swap ideas and experiences. I want to encounter mentors, people who will challenge me and I want to connect with people who may have shared similar experiences. I find it difficult to narrow my focus. When I think about doing that I can’t choose what to focus on. Country living? Sustainable lifestyle? Co-housing? Illness? Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Insomnia and continual exhaustion? Life with a stoma? Joy? Gratitude? the issues facing older, single women? Fun? Books? Whatever  it is I’m thinking about at the time?

I want to share my life, my thoughts, the insights I’ve gained along the way. I want to connect with others who live with a stoma or with insomnia so we can support each other, whinge to people who will understand and share any wisdoms we may have. I want to talk with older women who worry about facing a future alone or fear homelessness because I understand and share these anxieties.

And I want to share my co-housing adventure with you, the gardening challenges and attempts to live a simple lifestyle. I might learn something from you and I hope that sometimes you might learn something from me.

This is how I want to be- happy and full of life.

Ideal image? I know some of the qualities I want to have. I want to be compassionate and kind. I’d like to be a wise elder, but I also want to be funny and silly and passionate and intemperate. I want to live every moment of my life with gratitude and be fully present, no matter what that moment may be. I want to be me.

Image? Who cares? Let’s just get on and live.

The Great co-housing adventure continues.

Boxes and furniture put wherever they would fit.

Boxes and furniture put wherever they would fit.

The front porch after the removalists left.

The front porch after the removalists left.

Perhaps there’s a reason why  Wendell Berry’s statement “Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire” caught my eye this morning.

But I would never be relieved to see my house catch fire and while I know we have too much we are looking forward to sorting and simplifying.

I want to show you our home as it is today, after the removalists have brought everything, right at the beginning. I want you to share this adventure of co-housing and community with us, the creating of the home, the evolving garden, our own journeys, the shared journey, the challenges we face, the successes, the life – our own, the house, the garden, the community, this valley and neighbourhood.

When you see these photos it might cross your mind that there’s quite a lot… and I’d agree, but there are mitigating circumstances. And here’s the background.

I am more able to understand nowadays the devastating effect chronic insomnia, illness and continual exhaustion have had on my life. The more I understand the more  accepting and compassionate toward myself I am. As I become less tired and have fewer external demands I’m experiencing the contrast between a life chronically exhausted and a life less so.

No wonder I have spent years reading mainly escapist literature. No wonder I have started so many wonderful books only to put them down because I couldn’t concentrate. No wonder I have such a long list of things I want to do when…

There are flowers by the door- not all is chaos.

There are flowers by the door- not all is chaos.

I have just spent my longest period ever in a full-time permanent job.  This was interrupted by severe and long illnesses, but…with a secure wage I experienced the joy of buying a spacious light-filled house –  three bedrooms, two bathrooms. And then I enjoyed filling it up- such pleasure in having enough linen for guests, buying  quality saucepans, a dinner set, crystal glasses, furniture that wasn’t just cast-offs and the indulgence of books and books and books (and yes, clothes and more clothes).  I remember feeling I was a proper adult when I bought myself a new and beautiful fridge…and then a washing machine. I could look after myself, I could be independent, strong and capable. So empowering. But illness, Chronic Fatigue and exhaustion meant that I couldn’t keep up with the sorting and clearing out and throwing away…it’s all come with me.

Angela, my co-houser, moved to the UK eight years ago, for a planned long-term stay. Her possessions- furniture, linen, books, kitchen…all went into long-term storage. The move didn’t work out. Angie arrived back in Australia- heartbroken, homeless, jobless, broke…but not friendless.

This is Angela's bedroom. Wait until it's painted and organized!

This is Angela’s bedroom. Wait until it’s painted and organized!

When she found work her choice was to house-sit, furniture and possessions staying in storage. A move into a small unit meant there was no space to retrieve her belongings. After several years, my dominoes all fell perfectly and we bought this house. I moved… and all my stuff. Angela remained living and working in the city, but  was finally able to move her long-term stored things to this house. (Imagine her delight in seeing much cherished possessions again! ) We stacked everything somewhere- we are talking two households here and neither were minimalist. And this house has no garage or external storage space.

At last Angela has reached the moment when she can leave her current work, uproot herself from the city and move to her home in this small, beautiful, rural valley. Today, the unit has has been packed up and all the contents are now here, Angie is yet to arrive. As Max says “Let the show begin!”

Share our adventure!

One of my kookaburras yesterday.

One of my kookaburras yesterday.

(And I thought this post was going to be all photos! Silly me.)

The Great co-housing adventure begins!

images[6](Or, as Max says in “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Let the show begin!”)

Well, it’s almost begun. Angie, my co-houser hasn’t arrived yet, but all her things are here. (Well, except the clothes and things she needs for the next few weeks.)

Life is an adventure!Here’s some of the background to this adventure.

Angie and I have been friends for forty years. More than friends, she’s part of my family. We have cared for each other, slept on the floor at each other’s homes when we’ve been homeless. She’s the person I have phoned in the middle of the night, after I have phoned for an ambulance. Over the years we have  guarded each other’s back, when trouble was stalking.

We’re often single. Careers and security have not been our primary aims. So we haven’t reached middle age, financially secure and affluent. ( Most of the time we realise how  very secure and how richly abundant we are in so many other ways.) For many reasons we have chosen to buy a home together.

There are so many reasons. I am passionate about the necessity to create community and build a safe and loving space where we can belong and have that absolute sense of trust. I love the Wendell Berry poem which says “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

to give my presence, my aim

to give my presence, my aim

I want home to be that place of unconditional love, total trust and safety…the place where I know I can be completely vulnerable… and I’m not thinking only of these four walls here and of Angie and myself. I am committed to building a larger community and helping to create such a space for others.

With Angie here, I can relax. There’s someone else to share all the jobs.  There’s someone who loves  and supports me through thick and thin. There’s someone who will give me space and silence and solitude whenever I need it. There’s someone to provide that rare and special feedback that will enable us each to grow and blunt our sharp edges, to point out when we  have been less than the best we can be.  There’s someone to laugh and play with, to have fun. So much, so much to be so very grateful for.

The garden will be started- finally! The house will be painted. (I HATE THE COLOURS!) Together we will practise living frugally and sustainably and we’ll be better at it, because we’ll  have each other to prop up our resolve when we fall into lust and wanting. (We both love things- books, paintings, beautiful objects… and I adore clothes. I fall into lust and wanting very easily.) We have more than enough.

(And you thought this was going to be easy, Angela!)

Life in the moment!

Life in the moment!

I said to Ange the other day: “Thank God you will finally be here!!! We can paint and garden and start a market stall and go to the gym regularly and get fit and have picnics at the beach and invite people for meals and sort out boxes of stuff and get started on that photographic project and you can begin building and making and maybe we’ll have some hens and we’ll sit about and read and have a glass of wine together and cups of tea and…(I stopped for a breath)”.

Angie: “I’ve been looking forward to resting and doing nothing much for a while!”

(Silly girl!)

I could call this climate change or global warming, but it’s too bloody hot!

Ah! cool.

Ah! cool.

Hot. Hot and more hot. It’s only November, although it was only September last year when we had a heatwave and an out of control bushfire raging a few kilometres away. So this year it’s a bit later. Something to be grateful for.

It’s been so hot for days. Can’t sleep, too exhausted to do anything. I’d drive to the beach but I might fall asleep at the wheel.

A local beach.

A local beach.

Yesterday at half past five in the evening it was thirty-seven degrees, that’s almost ninety-nine Fahrenheit; on Friday, in the morning, it was forty-four, that’s one hundred and eleven Fahrenheit. Friday I had an appointment at Forster, a local beachside town and went swimming. The ocean was rough so I bobbled about in the beach pool. Cool, cool, clear water- absolute bliss. I could go today…

No lush garden here yet.

No lush garden here yet.

I’m so glad the garden has been delayed. I’d be frantic if we had created our garden beds and done intensive planting. At least I don’t have too many plants to worry about. A friend who has been gardening here for eleven years says the sun is now much hotter and plans to cover all her vegetable garden beds with netting to provide some shade and protection from the heat. Seems ludicrous. We used to aim to get the most sun exposure possible and now we look for some protection for our plants. What will it be like in a few years? Experts agree it’s only going to get hotter.

We would like to have some tanks here. Australia is one of the driest continents (is it the driest?), and our rainfall is less and more scattered. The locals tell me we would need large tanks if they were to be of any use and we lack space. It’s too expensive to put them underground. Strange to think that water may become the commodity wars are fought over.

Last year's flood. We are a "land of droughts and flooding rains."

Last year’s flood. We are a “land of droughts and flooding rains.”

Living in the country I have become much more aware of weather. In the city I would notice if it was very hot or cold. Rain could be a nuisance, but I was less aware of the absence of rain. There’s not so much land around and any parks or gardens can be kept watered. Strong winds can be obvious but even their impact is broken by so many buildings.

Here it’s right in my face. Sometimes I think my body is attuned to the weather. I react emotionally to extremes. Too much hot weather and I turn nasty. Days of strong westerlies and I want to lock myself away in a cupboard. I grieve for the coolness and the refreshing of rain through the dry and the drought. I grieve for the land and the animals. Driving around here through the dry times, and it’s mostly been dry, I sit by the road , near the cattle and I mourn. I mourn for what we have done. I mourn for the future. I mourn for our earth.

And I long for rain. I long for cool. I long for summer storms and cool spring seasons, for autumn crispness.

if only.

if only.

Locals tell me that even with good rain the land no longer recovers. It might recover to about 80%; but then there’s another drought and another and another. Each time the land recovers to some extent but never completely, so over time  the land has become drier and less resilient, it’s more difficult to grow the food and the pastures.

Karl, who lives up the road a way, tells me that his creek hasn’t run fully for over twenty years and I know that the river I grew up beside is much shallower. In some places where it once flowed fully there are banks and it slows to a trickle. Great swimming holes, but not the wide, free-flowing river it once was.

I listened to an interview with Jackie French, a notable author and conservationist. Her latest book “Let the Land Speak” explores the idea that Australia has been shaped by the land itself, rather than by events. I listened as I drove and I found myself in tears as many callers spoke about their intense love for where they had lived or had grown up.

Part of my valley.

Part of my valley.

I know that I needed to return to this particular area to be near the country of my heart so this piece of the earth could heal the heartbreaks and the wounds of a life.

I will cherish it and care for it all the days of my life and I will fight for it while I have breath.

Turkey, Cranberries, Pumpkin Pie and BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

kategresham:

I adore books. I have a Kindle but it’s astonishing how many times I buy the book, rather than the e-version. And I have too many, at least when I move house!
I adore Ann Patchett. I want to visit her bookshop- it helps that I also want to visit Nashville. So I’m reblogging this for all such reasons, but mostly I’m reblogging this post because I wanted to send the list to all my friends…and this is an easy way to do it!
I’ve read The Cuckoo’s Calling and I liked it a lot. I know Jon Scieszka from his retellings for children- “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, told by A. Wolf”, “The Frog Prince Continued” and others. They are hilarious and clever.
I plan to read several of these titles and I’d really like to hear if you have read some already, or your response to any you do read.
Have you read Ann Patchett?

Originally posted on musing:

IMG_8553

Let’s start out this rendition of Staff Picks with a few words from Ann:

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Opening our hearts to wonder, to awe, to beauty, to joy

the savour of lavender.

the savour of lavender.

I have just experienced this brief TED talk- I say experienced to include watching, listening and being moved profoundly.

the joy of roses.

the joy of roses.

Please give yourself the gift of the time it will take to sit and absorb the wisdom, the beauty, the simplicity and the joy.

(Click on the blue “TED talk”). This will take you there.

This talk is by Louis Schwartzberg and titled “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.” He describes living in the country and discovering the joy of simplicity and the beauty of nature. It ends with a statement by Brother David Steindl-Rast, accompanied by a feast of natural beauty.

The Creative flow.

My creativity needs some attention, as does my garden!

My creativity needs some attention, as does my garden!

Somehow, it’s just not happening! the creative flow seems to have dried up. As I drive or wash up or garden the writing happens in my head. It flows, the ideas keep coming and EACH time I feel sure I’ll remember it. But when I sit at the computer or take my writing pen and paper, it’s gone.

I take some responsibility for this. I believe that writing in the morning as soon as I get up (and make a cup of coffee!) is as necessary as breathing. But have I been practicing this lately? No. Do I have a reason for this? No. I’m reminded of the statement of St Paul (and you must remember I had a most religious upbringing) that the good that we would, we do not. Too true. I was pleased to discover that a paradox in mindfulness simply says this another way ” We often practice things that are unhelpful and  avoid practicing things that helpful.” We humans are strange beings.

So the days go by. I start writing. It’s something I care about, but it doesn’t hang together. I leave it unfinished and walk away, dissatisfied. I eat something, have another cup of tea. I’d go for a walk or weed the garden, but it’s too hot.

Maybe it's good enough?

Maybe it’s good enough?

I have a little bubble of enthusiasm, go to the computer, start writing. Frustration, it sounds awkward, doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Is this a moment when I persevere, doggedly? Push through this dullness? In this humour, of course I don’t!

Barbara Kingsolver, one of my writing heroes, describes putting her daughter on the school bus, going to her desk and staying there for the next six hours. When does she do the shopping? keep appointments? see her friends? I’ve spent most of my life in full-time work. When did I fit in all those other demands? Where does my day go? How does time fritter away so easily?

Anne Lamott, another writing hero, describes how, even when she was hung over from both alcohol and drugs, still struggled to her writing, every afternoon. Her book “Bird by Bird” says that’s exactly how you do it- bird by bird, or, bit by bit.

I confess. I have been neglecting my practice. I have let any discipline slide. Any excuse has been acceptable, or, no excuse at all. I’m finding it hard to live with myself. This Kathryn I don’t like all that much. I guess it’s what they say about riding a horse- so, you fell off? get right back on again. So, I’ve had a moment of slackness? Get over it, keep going.

Peanuts can always cheer me up.

Peanuts can always cheer me up.

I remember back last year when I was going to write a blog. I worried over a name. Asked everyone’s opinion. Couldn’t settle on a theme. What colour? What picture? How would it be best to introduce myself? What was my voice? The tone? Then one day I sat down and wrote something. And clicked on “publish.” What a moment. It wasn’t perfect, not any of it. In fact it wasn’t even good enough, depending on your point of view. But there had to be an end to the dithering.

And one day I’ll rewrite my “about”. I’ll change the header; I have plans to customize; I aim to go back and edit early posts. I remember my mantra

NEVER GIVE UP.

Perhaps I need another pink bridge in my life.

Perhaps I need another pink bridge in my life.

I’m not giving up. I’m not going away. I wrote this morning and I’ll write tomorrow morning. If I miss one day or even more, I’ll start again, but I won’t give up.

I remember another paradox: “Self blame will slow the process of self development, not speed it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A grateful heart.

Thank you

Thank you

Today I find myself aware of so many things I’m grateful for.

I arrived home last night after a trip to visit my brother and sister. My sister has a mental illness, my brother cares for her. Every day of my life I grieve for my sister, my baby sister, ten years younger. Every day of my life I am grateful to my brother and his care of her.

My sister, my brother, myself and pet rabbits- a very long time ago!

I am grateful I was finally able to make the trip. I have wanted to for so very long and I’m so very glad that at last I  have the time and the energy. I get to see where she lives, share her birthday and spend some time with both of them.

During the long train and bus travel, I texted and phoned the friend I was going to stay with en route and my brother, reminding me how much I appreciate mobile phones and emails. I’m running late? No problem. Send a text. I’m feeling distressed?  Text a friend I know will understand. I get messages from caring friends to let me know they’re thinking of me, phone calls from friends to check how it’s going.

I’m home again. Send some emails to let everyone know how it went. So simple, so useful.

Gums and European trees at our picnic spot.

Gums and European trees at our picnic spot.

Southern New South Wales is so different to the Mid North Coast. We don’t get much change of season, a few deciduous trees, a few spring bulbs.  Canberra is a city of trees, many of them from the Northern Hemisphere- oaks, elms, ashes, spruce, cedars, birches…such an abundance and all with delicious new spring growth. I could have walked and touched and marveled and enjoyed for many days.  I’m grateful I could experience them even briefly.

I meet some of the community who support my sister and I’m overwhelmed by the love they have for her and for the loving-kindness they extend to me as I break down in tears. I am so very grateful.

the joys of Spring.

the joys of Spring.

Coming home our bus to Sydney passes through the Southern Highlands. One of the  pleasures of my life is to visit this area in Spring and Autumn, something I haven’t been able to do for too long. It’s green and lush. Lilacs are in bloom. Fences and trellises drip with wisteria. Blossom trees, tulips, roses…old stone houses…lambs…I feast on it all.

A moment of synchronicity. We’re stopped briefly at Bowral station and I get a phone call. It’s a cousin with whom I have a special connection and had accidentally dialed the day before. The synchronicity? She lives in Bowral and is about two minutes away- driving! Unfortunately there is no time to see her, but we make an agreement for me to visit soon, something else I need to do.

If we can care for ducks, can we not care for each other?

If we can care for ducks, can we not care for each other?

Then, on a busy main road the traffic both ways is held up. For what? A family of ducks- mother, father and six ducklings are crossing the road, in safety. Bless the softness of the human heart that stops to let ducks cross. And remember this moment as a reminder to trust that goodness of the human heart to care for both my sister and my brother when I am not able to do so.

How embroidery is helping women in Pakistan stand up to honor killings and inequality

kategresham:

My local book club that I started several months ago, has now also become a sewing group. Some of us meet in local rooms to sew, whether that is clothes or embroidery or patchwork or knitting or cochet or making curtains or …if you’re me, until now…to talk and be with others. Doing things together has always seemed to me to be a powerful communication. Busy hands seems to free up the mind; talk follows and often, true community. Here’s an inspiring story of change using a traditional craft. Enjoy it and be inspired!

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

Khalida Brohi grew up traveling between two very different parts of Pakistan: the bustling city of Karachi, where her parents moved so that she and her sisters could go to school, and a small village in Balochistan, where her family has its roots. Brohi got a modern education, and also developed a deep reverence for her tribal traditions. Those two threads often tangled — especially when it came to the treatment of women.

As a teenager, Brohi watched as, one by one, her childhood friends entered arranged marriages, sometimes against their will. When she was 16, she received word that a close friend had been murdered by her family in an “honor killing.” She set her mind on starting a movement to stop these practices. But as it gained momentum, it also spurred a backlash.

“We were challenging centuries-old customs in these communities. They stood up, saying we were spreading un-Islamic behavior,”…

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