Toads and Witches and Childhood Angst

When I was a child I had 3 or 4 quite prominent warts on the side of my little finger on my left hand. They disappeared as I grew older, but I can feel them now as I think of it. It was something I was terribly ashamed of, and I despised anyone holding my hand for fear – entirely warranted – they would shrink away, or ask if I’d been touching toads, or scream that I would give them warts. All of those things happened at one time or another, until I was so paranoid that I felt the ‘horror’ of the warts was the only thing anyone could see on my whole hand.

I used to rub them with the thumb of my other hand: not sure why – checking to see if they had gotten smaller, to see if I could rub them away, to focus on my ‘flaws’ because that’s all I could think of – all those things I suppose. I just found myself  rubbing that finger now, unconsciously, even though they have been gone for years.

I tried all kinds of remedies, over the years, to remove them; banana peels, bandaids (to keep out the oxygen), various creams and ointments from the chemist, cutting them out with scissors…nothing worked, and the remedies were frequently painful. The memories of the very specific pain from the cutting, the sight of the blood, the pale, washed-out look of them after removing another bandaid, are very clear, but I can’t remember what ultimately caused them to go. I have a vague memory of a doctor’s implement embedding itself again and again into them, so I suppose they were frozen, but it seems odd that I can remember having them so clearly, but the memory of the removal of them is so fuzzy.

I even hated the word, and I still don’t use it very often (like I’m avoiding it right now). I felt stigmatised, and every time there was a conversation about witches, or toads, or anything else that could be associated, I shrank a little, hoping that no-one would look at me. It seems very silly and overblown now, but I was deeply self-conscious about it then.

Just recently, a close friend and I happened to get to talking about warts and she mentioned that she had had warts in exactly the same place, as a child, and that they, also, had gone away. I was amazed, but even more so when we compared our hands as they currently are, and found a couple of tiny, barely noticeable, warts in, again, exactly the same places as each other.

I have one wart on a finger joint on the palm side of my right hand, that appeared just a few years ago. I often find myself unconsciously rubbing this one in the same way I did as a child, but, this time, strangely, I like it. It’s a quirk that reminds me I’m me.

The Year of Intentional Living

We have decided that this is the Year of Intentional Living. We’re both lazy and apathetic and ‘easy way’-seeking, so we often find time and energy and friendship and inspiration and thoughtfulness and creativeness and ‘seizing the day’ slip away from us. This cannot continue to happen, or we will end up dry and empty.

There are three things that we’ve chosen to try and aim for this year in order to ‘wake up’.

One:
We choosing to eat more intentionally. Not healthier, or more cheaply, or more organically, or more ‘environmentally-soundly’, just more deliberately. More thoughtfully. More considered-ly. Eating not because it’s dinner-time, or because we have to finish the last of the cheese in the fridge before it goes mouldy, or because the cereal’s in the cupboard and it’s quick, or because everyone else is having cake…but because we really want an excellent cup of coffee, or because ‘the chef at this restaurant is amazing’, or because the smell of fresh-baked bread hits right as the stomach growls, or because sautéed asparagus, steamed fish with ginger and shallots, and saffron basmati is awesome.

I want to work toward deliberately choosing what and when to eat, rather than just eating.

Two:
We’re choosing to have people to our home more frequently. Neither of us crave social interaction at a high-level, but we’re both aware that we need it, and enjoy it. We also – due frequently to my ‘recovering’ perfectionism – don’t have people in our home often…which just perpetuates the issue. The less often people are here, the harder it is to invite them, and the more easily I can invent excuses why we shouldn’t. So, we have decided to have somebody, or bodies, in our house for something social, at least once a fortnight, even if it’s just my friend for a cup of coffee or my parents for dinner. And it will become easier and easier, and I will make less of an issue of everything needing to be ‘right’ before someone can set a foot inside our door.

I want to work towards natural hospitality by deliberately choosing to be hospitable.

Three:
We’re choosing to view, or attend, or participate in something ‘arty’, or musical, or creative more often. This is a small town, and it was hard to move here from Seattle where you barely have to think for more than a minute in order to come up with something creative to do, or see, or listen to. While there are certainly options here for connecting with ‘Art’, we have to look a bit harder, and we’ve been lax in doing so, and, hence, we’ve become a bit trapped in mediocre routine. So, we have decided that once a month we will consciously choose to go to a play, or an art museum, or a concert, or a performance of some kind, and we will engage with it. Because art makes life richer.

I want to deliberately work towards more depth, and creativity, and interaction, and inspiration.

Intentional living – so our lives don’t unintentionally drip away.

Christmas – bah humbug?

Christmas is coming.

Around this time last year I didn’t really want Christmas to come. Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year; the high point of the year’s arc. But, at this time last year, my life felt a bit crappy, and Christmas – the hoopla of it all – seemed so overwhelming.

I’d been working for the previous 3 years at a local software company, and, I say this with no exaggeration, it was the most demoralising, draining, hurtful, undermining, confidence-stealing, soul-destroying employment I have ever had. At the end of the 3 years I didn’t feel like myself; I wasn’t even sure of what my skills and gifts and abilities were anymore. My manager would tell me I ‘wasn’t as talented as I thought I was’, blame me for mistakes he made, set up staff against each other, play favourites, treat many hard-working, honest, loyal, clever, mature, wise, trustworthy, responsible, long-term employees as naughty, deceitful children – worst job I’d ever had.

I lost myself. Depression was always lurking, and frequently close to the surface. The problem was that I was so beaten down that I couldn’t see a way out, couldn’t believe that I would be able to find another job because, apparently, my skill set was so low (read: under-appreciated) that I should just be grateful to have a job.

Inertia was my enemy. I couldn’t muster enthusiasm for anything, particularly not finding a new job, and, Christmas? Who could be bothered to prepare anything? It was just all too much work. So, I didn’t. I just sat at my desk every day, sinking, and came home at the end of each day and sank into both my couch, and a depressive coma. I couldn’t be bothered to prepare meals, let alone write the annual Caradoc Christmas letter. Any Christmas planning was forced and joyless.

This from a freak who so completely ‘discovered’ her childlike Christmas glee while living in beautiful and Christmas-crazy Seattle, that she shipped back to Australia 4 huge boxes of affectionately-named ‘Christmas crap’, can’t walk past a store with ‘Christmas crap’ in the window without pressing her nose up to the window and sighing wistfully that she can’t own it all, and who normally begins planning ‘Christmas crap’ decorating sometime in October. So, I was dreading Christmas.

And then, a miracle. I was fired. There was a ‘restructuring of the business’ and almost my entire department (a dozen or so) were, ‘regrettably’, no longer required. It was a shock…but it wasn’t. It was scary…but it wasn’t. It was a ‘sucker punch’ to the gut…but it wasn’t. It was a relief…yep, pure relief. My situation had been changed for me, when I no longer had the capacity to change it for myself.

And, at that point, HL didn’t have a job either. So, there we were, heading to Christmas, neither of us working, and I was just so grateful. Christmas was a bit lean last year, but so much more joyful than I had expected it to be.

Both of us, also miraculously, ended up falling into work that is right and appropriate for each of us at this present moment (HL driving cabs, and me working at a school, which I love) and I’m planning for Christmas, joyfully.

Just Because

I feel angry and resentful. Just because someone else is disorganised, or self-focussed, or manipulative, or demanding, does not mean that I am required to acquiesce to them. My plans do not have to change just because someone else is put out. Just because someone else is frustrated, or childish, or knows how to lay out a passive-aggressive guilt trip, does not mean I have to feel sad, or controlled, or infuriated. I am responsible only for me, I cannot and do not control other people’s happiness. Just because someone else might lash out, or wheedle, or presume, does not mean that it’s my fault, or that I need to ‘be nice’ just to keep them ‘happy’. Sometimes conflict is helpful in the long-term.

But words are easy.

*sniff*

HL and I have both been feeling stuffy-nosed for a while now. HL, in particular, seems to have continual ‘can’t breathe, my nose is too blocked’ symptoms, at the same time as being entirely free of other coldy-fluey indications. I, mostly, just have a sensation of not being able to clear my sinuses, no matter how many times, or how hard, I blow. It seems this has been the case, on and off, for some years now.

Our house is crappy. It’s a 1970, brick, poorly built and maintained, suburban box. The longer we live in it, the more problems seem to surface. One of the major issues, for me, is the hideousness of the windows. They’re single-paned, metal-framed, cheap-ass, sliding-glass windows. Just about every one of them seems to have a crack or a chip or some such damage so as to let the outside in. Consequently, we have a real moisture issue in the house.

There seems to have been no adequate ventilation planned in the design of this house. Every cupboard has a musty odour, the carpets, in certain spots, smell mouldy, there is continual condensation on the glass in the house, and we seem to have an out-of-control black mould infestation on our bedroom windows. No matter how frequently we air the rooms and clean the mould it always returns.

And that connects me back to our nasal issues. I am sure – I’ve convinced myself – that a lot of the sinus blockage, and, well, ‘snot’, is due to the mould. I know that black mould has been linked to respiratory problems and it doesn’t make sense that it isn’t damaging us. It seems to be a huge issue to fix definitively, though, and, as the house doesn’t belong to us, I don’t feel that I can either demand that it gets fixed (at great expense to the landlords – my parents) or spend the dollars myself to replace the windows, carpet, cupboards, etc…

It’s a problem, especially as we’re thinking of having kids, and I certainly don’t want a child to be exposed to unrelenting toxic mould. I don’t know what to do, other than open windows and doors a lot (tricky in freezing winter weather), leave fans on much of the time, continually clean off mould and work to replace the carpets with hardwood floors. *sigh*