Thursday, 13 May 2021

730 things — Day 63 of 365

 The challenge of today is sorting out my grandson's birthday present. He has a deep and fierce enthusiasm for transformers, and put a Dark of the Moon Megatron star-screamer on his Amazon wish list. The snag was the delivery time, which estimated a month past the actual birthday. He is a very focused person who knows exactly what he wants and is willing to wait for it (an admirable example to both his grandmothers), but even so I thought maybe I could find a version of it that might arrive quicker. And so I did, on eBay — new, but without the presentation packaging. Hmm. I consulted with his father, who thought that would be okay. So I ordered it and it came. Surprisingly, it proved more of a tussle to obtain a story he wanted by Dick King-Smith — The Fox-Busters — which I had to take two goes at ordering before I managed to wrestle it out of the ether.

So now I have the birthday loot I need to put my mind to creating satisfactory packaging. But I have a plan, that involves the box in the fridge where I keep my veggies. 

I used up the last of my sticky-backed plastic selling shoes on eBay, so I've ordered some more and when I've created a packaged gift I think looks okay, I'll show you what I did.

Somewhat to my surprise, because I am not a very loving person and because key people close to me have let me down badly and eroded my trust — I have made my inner world into something of a fortress — I find I do very much love my grandson. He is pure of heart, "an Israeli without guile", and you don't find that very often, do you?

Our family is entering Birthday Season with a vengeance now, and I have two small stashes in my cupboard waiting to be processed and dispatched to the relevant birthday persons; but in the meanwhile, regular stuff continues to leave my life.

When Tony drove across to the ex-homeless man in his new flat with the bundle of bedding yesterday, I thought he might like a pillow to go in one of his pillow-cases. I had a good one as-near-as-damn-it new, so I enrobed it in two further pillowcases and added that to his bedding mountain.

So, one pillow with two pillow-cases went out yesterday.

Frankly, I am slightly stunned by the amount of stuff that has been lurking completely unneeded in the nooks and crannies edging my life.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

730 things — Day 62 of 365

 I wonder if you are a person who lives with anxiety?

Before the pandemic, many people who spent a significant time online had life-limiting disabilities, or were carers who couldn't go out much, or had conditions like ME that kept them at home, or were neuro-divergent people looking for others with whom they could more easily relate and feel understood — and many were HSPs or lived with anxiety, becoming easily overwhelmed by stimuli and interactions. Coronavirus has brought a much wider spectrum of people online. I wonder how the invisible territory of electronic human connection will reconfigure as restrictions ease.

By living very simply and keeping everything I have to deal with very small, I limit the effect on me of the anxiety that has been my lifelong companion and affects all the women in my family (daughters, sister, mother, aunts, grandmother . . .)

When something comes my way that I really feel I cannot dodge, I can manage my external conduct in the situation, but not my inner world. Yesterday I paused to consider what anxiety looks like, to me. If you do a Google search on "twisted branch" or "twisted tree", that represents it well.

Something like this.

It feels like the centre of me being fixed into a distortion too strong to resist, and at the same time like a force from above and to the left, crushing down inexorably.

I have chosen to relinquish more and more involvement, connection and possession, because these contribute to anxiety. The selective mutism and autistic burnout that have come with struggling against it are very long-term and not very worthwhile.

Persevering against the prevailing wind direction of anxiety is very draining. I give up easily when discouraged by apparently small things, because I have a powerful inner magnifier! And I leave situations suddenly. Sometimes I come back and try again, but because my choices are perplexing to others, causing bewilderment that embarrasses me which triggers further anxiety, nowadays I tend to just live quietly, and go my own way.

I find the structural quietness of a home with not much in it very calming. I love the encounters with wild animals and birds in our garden, where they feel safe. I like simple, neutral television programmes like quiz shows and documentaries about people doing their everyday jobs (air ambulance, border control, animal rescue) with a strong theme of problems being resolved and everything made okay again. And I like TV programmes about gardens and houses — anything that has no human drama.

And I am drawn to the simple peace of minimalism — here is your soft beige hoodie, here are your soft, stretchy, dark grey cords, here is your black t-shirt (with long sleeves) and your floppy lightweight sweater, here is your quiet, dark underwear. Put them on. Wash yesterday's. Hang them on the line. All done.

By any external measure, my life is very boring, but it's certainly not like that inside. For one thing, it is sustained by an unending flow of stories, and always has been. My inner world is full of people talking and laughing and interacting all day long — some are trolls, some are monks, some are soft toys — and they have lives of their own, rich with profound thinking and compelling emotion, and moments of vulnerability. Sometimes I write it down. And every single belonging of mine has an opinion. 

Some of them don't get on so well with me, and I'm sure they are glad to leave.

Today what is going from my life is a second bundle of bedding.

Where am I getting all this bedding? This particular lot I bought long ago, for a different bed in a different house, and it's travelled faithfully with me but spent most of its time like a hermit in a mountain cave, living on top of a wardrobe. And now it is ready to leave home.

Both this bundle of bedding and the one I posted about two days ago are going to a homeless man who has finally managed to get himself somewhere to live, and is putting together what he needs to make a home. God bless him; may he thrive and prosper, may he be comfortable, may he be peaceful, may he be safe.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

730 things — Day 61 of 365

Here is someone who has taken minimalism to what feels like unimaginable levels!

realise he is just travelling rather than actually living full-time like this, but even so! 

I was entertained and amazed by the way his clothes sat on him just like normal clothes and yet he kept producing more and more items from his pockets like Mary Poppins getting articles of furniture out of her carpet bag.

The world is full of astonishing things.

He has a page itemising his possessions here.

Today, I am sending on their way the following items: a cream fleece top and a beige gilet.

I got them both from private sellers on eBay and the gilet was a bit meh (well worn), but the top was lovely — very soft and velvety — and both were microfibre fleece, so were easy to wash, quick to dry, resistant to stains and virtually indestructible. What's not to like?

Well, I think I must have been channelling my mother when I got these, because they are the kind of colours she always went for — soft, light, warm tones that suit a person who is a Spring on the colour categorisations.

At first when I had these garments I was pleased with them, because they did actually look nice on me. But they also brought with them the realisation that light colours have the same effect on me as bright colours. It's not that I dislike them but their vibration is louder and stronger than mine, and after a very short while they make me feel extremely tired. 

I really hope I have now abidingly learned the lesson that I need to stick to dark, quiet colours. Not necessarily all black or all grey, just not light, bright, loud, patterned or in any other way at all eye-catching.

Monday, 10 May 2021

730 things — Day 60 of 365

Here's a video of Youheum from the Heal Your Living channel on YouTube, talking about doing her cleaning.

I like the idea of her sustainable solutions, though personally I have never got on well with the plant-fibre bristle brushes she mentions — like her, I have found they quickly go mouldy, and they are not as effective as nylon brushes. So I admit I stick to the usual plastic sort, but I do make them last for ages and ages which is all that can be said in defence of my choices.

My heart said "Yes! Yes! Yes!" to the aversion she and her cat feel for vacuum cleaner noise. I'm the same, and so is our cat, Miguel. I can't stand the noise of the vacuum cleaner. Because of a foolish early choice when we moved in here — I thought fitted carpets would be way cheaper than replacing 1970s chipboard floors with reclaimed wood; I was wrong — we do have fitted carpet in some places still, making a vacuum cleaner (almost) necessary, but Tony is willing to do that particular chore, thank heaven.

However my room and the bathrooms, the passage through from the front door, the kitchen and the studio all have hard floors, so I can sweep those and then wash them.

I see Youheum has a mop thing to wind a cloth round for cleaning floors — I don't bother with that, I find the cloth is fine and any stick or handle isn't a helpful addition. 

So my cleaning kit is a rag — or disposable wipes if we happen to have any left over from some source, but I no longer buy them; or paper towel I can then use as kindling for the fire if I have some particular reason for using that rather than a rag (if Miguel threw up or something) — and then one of our two highly prized Japanese hoki brooms

These are not especially expensive but hard to come by. Every now and then someone in Japan (or China) takes it into their head to sell some through Amazon or eBay, but not very often. If you search on "Japanese broom" on Etsy, they have a lovely selection there, including some at very affordable prices. I know this, because I've just looked — it hadn't occurred before to me to look on Etsy for brooms.

At the moment we have an accumulation of bottles of cleaning stuff to work through — Ecover multi-surface spray and orange oil for the floor and so on — but I think I might do as Youheum has, and go on to dilute vinegar and essential oils, once I've used up what we have. I'll be careful which essential oils I use, though, because (as she mentions) many are highly toxic for cats; the list is long and I can't remember them all, but eucalyptus makes cats ill, and it's one you might well choose to incorporate into house-cleaning mixtures. I wonder if you can get catnip oil? That should be okay, and smell nice. Catnip smells like incense.

I am very intrigued by Youheum's Scrubba wash bag, and have put one on my watch list on Amazon — I like the Scrubba Bag Tactical that comes in a quiet shade of brown, rather than the bright green one. A German reviewer on Amazon recommends that if you use this method of doing your laundry then you do well to also get a micro-fibre towel and use it to wrap-and-wring your laundered items to dry them off a bit before hanging out. If you do that, then hand-washing becomes as effective as machine washing but without needing to have the bulk and noise and expense of the machine. If you wash something big like a duvet, the public laundromats are a back-up. 

But though I am drawn to the idea of purchasing a Scrubba bag and microfibre towel, something (well, two things actually) gives me pause. The first is that I already have microfibre clothing, and feel guilty enough about that because the fibres are getting into the water courses and turning us and our fish slowly into plastic, aren't they? The other caution is that a) I already have a perfectly good cotton towel which dries pretty quick on the line, and b) this last fifty or so years I have been hand washing things with perfectly satisfactory results, in the sink, with no Scrubba Bag. If I go away from home I a) will most likely stay in a Travelodge that has a sink just like at home, b) will probably not try to wash anything until I go home, and c) will be most unlikely ever to go camping and won't attempt any laundry while there, if I do. I strongly suspect the Scrubba Bag is, for me, a let's-all-be-like-Youheum fantasy, and to be resisted. Ditto the microfibre towel. Anyway, we have a washing machine in our shared house. Sometimes I use that, sometimes I wash my clothes by hand.

What I'm moving on today is a bundle of bedding — my spare sheets and duvet cover. 

This bundle includes more than two items, but there's only one picture because they are all incorporated into one pack.

So here's another (related) picture (calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh).

I have for some time been wanting to get rid of this bedding, but hesitated to do so because there are pros and cons.

On the plus side, it is warm and cosy, because it's made of flannelette, though there's a regular cotton flat sheet in the bundle too. On the minus side, I dislike the colour and general appearance — I usually put my Tibetan "yak" blanket over the top when that bedding is in use, so I don't have to look at it. "Yak" is in inverted commas because these blankets, though they are indeed from Tibet, are made of wool from acrylic yaks. It is possible to buy blankets made from yak wool, but if the ones you are contemplating have groovy colourful Indian patterns and cost about £22 on eBay, let me tell you now that what you will be getting in this instance is acrylic. But I digress.

The other thing is that most of what I have fits nicely into the storage space I am willing to retain, now I've moved on several sets of shelves, but only if I don't keep the spare bedding bundle — because it's bulky and takes up a significant chunk of space.

I have hesitated over this for about a year, because it means when I wash my sheets (not all that often as it happens, certainly not every week like my mother did) they need to be out on the line and back on the bed by nightfall if I have only one set. But why not? Within the span of time I'm likely to wash them, there's bound to be at least one dry, breezy day, is there not? So though I've thought about this a long time, asking myself, Are you sure?, the answer turns out to be, "Yes".

Sunday, 9 May 2021

730 things — Day 59 of 365

 Did you ever have a go at scratchboard/scraperboard art?

There are some sophisticated and very grown-up forms of it that depend on actual artistic ability. YouTube has tutorials about how to do it (one chosen at random here). The basic idea is scratching away a dark surface to reveal a light base underneath. It's a form of engraving.

When I was a child I was occasionally given a kiddies' version of scraper-board — all you did was scratch off the entirety of a black surface to reveal a picture underneath; much like the scratchcard option of entering a lottery.

Sometimes I ask myself, why have I always been so drawn to minimalism and radical simplicity? I have things, I play with things, I try things out, I like to be resourced and also to see that everyone else has what they need and they're okay — but I never want to keep anything. I always want to move on, and I am happiest with a bare minimum. I don't want to hoard stuff; I don't even like saving money. I prefer the idea of flow, currency, a resource stream where people take what they want and pass on what they don't need and refrain from accumulation, stay free.

It occurs to me from time to time that my strong attraction to minimalism may be pathological — like bulimics feeling the need to make themselves vomit. And I accept that it may be so, and I know from observing others that the last one to know they have a problem is usually the person who has it. And part of me says, so what? It lets me live in a very small space, I pass on things others are very keen to own, I give away a lot of resources of one kind or another, I don't need very much; how can there be a problem with that?

I've asked myself occasionally what I am trying to achieve. Many people are drawn to minimalism so they can travel a lot, or retire early or save up to buy a house and start a family. I rarely go anywhere (nor want to), I am already retired, and I have raised my family.

In part, I am getting ready for the end of my life. Whenever I die (and once you're in your mid-sixties you've entered the mortality band for sure) I want to evaporate like a wraith of smoke and leave as little as possible for others to clear up and sort out. 

Part of it is that the people I admire — Jesus, Gandhi, the Buddha, Lao Tsu, St Francis — all lived with very little, and it both contributed to and emanated from who and what they were/are. Somehow it is a key aspect, and I'd like to understand why. There is something beautiful in the monastic way, the way of the hermit and the sage, that I love.

And then I think it's a kind of scraper-board activity. I want to see what's underneath all the stuff on top — not the grown-up type of scraper-board where you have to make your own picture, I don't think I'm clever enough for that; the child's sort where you just patiently and carefully scratch away all the crud on top, and see a picture emerging that you knew was there but couldn't see until all the surface is taken away. I want to find out what lives underneath the patina of stuff that overlays our life. I want to see the hidden picture.

Of course it may turn out that there isn't one, that you were supposed to make your own picture, and all I'll be left with is a blank white space instead of a blank black one. 

Well, for today, what's leaving my life is a large bed base. 

Tony made this for me. It's the same as the one he made for my room in the house, which looks like this.

If you have been reading this blog a long time you'll know that at the bottom of our garden is a tiny house with a wood stove in it because I wanted to live in a tiny house. But when it was actually a physical reality, I found I wanted to be close to the people I live with, and I felt nervous about living in a shed at the bottom of the garden because spates of shed-burglaries are a thing even though we haven't had one in a while, and also damp created a constant problem of mildew in that space. So we keep it as a summer house and a wood store and a place to practise musical instruments and record songs, and sometimes to stay overnight. But at some point Tony made me a base for a bed there, and as none of us actually sleeps there except very occasionally (when a floor bed will do), I have come to accept the space is more useful than the bed. I felt sorry he went to all that trouble for something that wasn't used — but that is a drawback for the people who travel with me. They always urge me to "keep it this time", but I never do. That's just how I am.

That's something big, here's something small. A packet of what they call "pop-socks", nylon tights but socks. 

At some point I thought they'd be useful but in reality I always and only wear the socks Alice makes me. I never even opened the packet. I got them passed on by a private seller on eBay who obviously also thought they'd be useful and found it was not so. I moved them on via Freegle with a bunch of women's clothes that someone put up her hand to receive.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

730 things — Day 58 of 365

 Taoism has a concept called The Second Mountain. The pilgrim sees a mountain in the distance that is her mountain to climb. She sets out on her journey and she does climb the mountain. On when she reaches the top can she see beyond — and realises that a second mountain stood there hidden by the first. And that's the mountain she has to climb.

The only encouragement I can find in this rather daunting bit of Taoist wisdom is that the second mountain might be a bit smaller than the first mountain if it was obscured from view like that. Not necessarily, I suppose. The first mountain might just have been so close it obscured everything else from view, or the second mountain might have its feet downhill a bit from the first one. Or neither of those things might apply, it being a metaphor.

But I have been thinking about The Second Mountain and also about bends in the road on one's life path — that you often can't see things of significance coming towards you because of the visibility/view where you are at the moment.

This is not always bad. Not everything coming towards us is a problem.

When I started out on this most recent wave of chucking things out, it was just with the intention of generally clearing and simplifying. I'd been unwell and I was tired, and a maxim I stick to is "if in doubt, simplify". I find things accrue and accumulate without my really noticing. I think they creep under the back door at night like slugs. So I just thought it was time to go through and have a sort-out, because every now and then I do and I hadn't had a really good go at it for a decade. 

But to my surprise, as I made headway with clearing things out, I came round a blind bend in the road to something unexpected.

It's to do with what I was writing about bandwidth the other day (here). I found that once I had less in my environment, and could think more clearly, I wanted to write stories again — which had gone out of focus in trying to regain health and sort out my physical surroundings.

In going through my possessions, I got out of their box (where I'd put them away when my shelves got filled up with other stuff) the people from the stories I'd been writing. I got rid of the box, and got rid of enough things to give them a space where I could see them.

And because I could see them, I could hear what they were saying more clearly instead of just a muffled murmur coming from the box underneath my bed (there's nothing under my bed now except the thing for charging up electronics). Now I can hear them, I can see what they're doing and tell their stories again. So I'm sorting out a designated blog for them where I can keep all their stories in one place, and which I'll tell you about in due course when it's properly ready. 

But it's Saturday and tomorrow is my turn for taking responsibility for our meeting for Sunday worship at The Campfire Church, so that's my focus for today. I'll make a story on Monday.

But if health challenges made Mountain One, and then led to sorting and clearing as Mountain Two, maybe writing some stories will be a Third Mountain. The bends in the road conceal many surprises.

Meanwhile, here are two things leaving my life.

A table. I got this because I wanted sometimes to sit at a table in the window that looks out on the greengage tree in the front garden, to eat my lunch out of the way of people cooking their lunch in the kitchen.

Then we borrowed a bigger table from Buzzfloyd at Christmas, to make something more festive of our Rosie (who lives alone just up the hill, so is in a government-covid-restrictions bubble with our household) coming to share Christmas lunch with us.

So the little table I'd got was no longer needed, but I just kept it (as one does). Then it occurred to me that now we have the big table I don't need the little one. It's gone to a man who restores furniture, sometimes for other people and sometimes to sell when he's made it nice. Times are hard for craftsmen like that, and a friend thought it would be helpful to make him a bit of money, so picked it up to take it to him.

The second thing to go was one of those folding shopping bags. I wanted to take the number of bags I have down to a simple set, and I prefer a shoulder bag or a rucksack for carrying shopping home. 

I opened up the folding shopper and put in it some of the things I'd sorted out for the charity shop. I figured they wouldn't be stuck with packaging that way..


Friday, 7 May 2021

730 things — Day 57 of 365

I love ecofriend.lia's Youtube channel, and I found this video especially sane and enjoyable. I appreciate the emphasis she places on the importance of shaping your life and choices according to your personal preferences and circumstances — it's not a competition or a game of one-upmanship. 

I'm very attracted to several of the ideas she mentions. I like the suggestion of having a sleeping bag for regular home use instead of only for camping while having duvet and blanket at home. I also like the idea of sleeping on the floor — that's what Gandhi did.

I slept on the floor for a long time, and I got on very happily with it and found it physically beneficial. I changed away from floor-sleeping for two reasons. The first is that I like to sleep up on a higher level. This feels like a primitive instinct rather than a rational choice. I notice that cats and dogs will also usually sleep up on something if they are allowed to choose, rather than sleeping on the floor. One rational aspect to it is that I love to be nearly at the height of the windowsill (my bed is along the wall with the window in it), because I like to look out at the trees and the sky.
The second reason is that though I respect and appreciate large spiders, I don't enjoy meeting them personally. Those spiders called variously Hertfordshire spiders, wolf spiders or harvest spiders live under the floor and in the walls, and come out in the autumn to find a partner. They are children of the universe no less than the trees and the stars and have a right to be here — but if I sleep up off the floor they most often (not always) are content to live at floor level and leave the upper level to me. Phew!

You'll maybe notice I speak about sleeping off the floor and on a higher level, rather than on a bed. What I have (I mean, I call it a bed but strictly it's not) is a sleeping platform that Tony made for me, with a very dense and unyielding futon pad on the top of it. So I get the benefit of being raised as if it were a bed, but at the same time the benefit of sleeping on a hard surface like a floor.

I could use just my sleeping bag (which presently I use as an under-blanket / mattress protector) as bedding, but as I have an earthing sheet (this one) under me at night it's better to be able to tuck it in and have a duvet on top.

I suppose I could launder and Freegle my sleeping bag (I no longer go camping) and then someone else could have the use of it, but I suspect they would be disappointed in it as it's had me sleeping on it for a few years now and must be well flattened.

I also liked Lia's ideas about hair care (stick to short or long) and make-up (don't bother). I do have make-up and jewellery but I keep that aspect of life within very mini limits. And I have short hair but not buzz-cut — I believe in buying the services and paying for the skills and talents of others to the extent I can afford, so I am happy to go to the hairdresser for now — but I admire Lia's confidence in going ahead and cutting her own hair; she used to have it very long and she made a video of when she cut it off. I think it suits her short.

I liked her suggestion of sticking to one colour in clothing. I agree black is good, for all the reasons she said. That's more or less what I've done — gone for black or charcoal grey; except I have some clothes that were made for me or given to me that are in quiet, peaceful colours, and I appreciate the change from black/grey.

I don't own the house I live in and I no longer have a car — and Lia's thoughts about ownership and use of such items I found interesting and helpful. Tony has a car, and he is always willing to drive any of us where we need to be if we ask. We try not to ask too often because that wouldn't be fair, but he's always generous about it. In two years time I get my old age bus pass — they moved the age on six years as well as our pensions — and I am so impatient for that day to come. 

As to furniture — I mostly sit on and work from my bed (I don't need a desk). In the sitting room of our house I have an armchair big enough to curl up in, because I enjoy going in and watching telly with the others. If I lived alone I wouldn't bother with the armchair, I'd just sit on the bed. And of course visitors are offered the armchair to sit on when they come to our house. I have a built in wardrobe (Tony made it) in my room, and a little set of shelves he made me – not essential but very useful and I love them because a) they are beautiful and b) he made them and I love him. 
I also have in my room a nifty chair — it is upholstered but it is also a commode. That can be useful at night, living in a shared house, because I don't disturb the others if I wake very early (I often do) and want to pee. 

Because I live in a shared house I find it difficult to evaluate what I might choose to have if I lived alone — most of what we have is shared. But I'll think about that and try to imagine what I would regard as essential to equip a home, if it was just me.

So here are the two things I am moving on today — two utensils that arrived in my life as companions to something else (I can't remember what). 

I didn't acquire them intentionally, they were just freebies additional to some other purchase I made. I think the little brush may have come with a water bottle (not sure) and I can't remember where the telescopic silicone funnel came from. Anyway, I don't need them so they've gone to the charity shop.


Thursday, 6 May 2021

730 things — Day 56 of 365

 I have a feeling that attraction to minimalism has to do with a person's sense of impermanence.

Cory Varga said:

. . . when you know you will leave your flat, all items seem like a silly buy. You know you won't be able to take everything with you so you suddenly don't want to waste money on a new pan which will only serve you for so long.

And you could take that observation written originally about nomadic lifestyle and apply it to the whole of life.

In the same way that we know the Earth is round and we have plenty of evidence to deduce and understand that it's round, but from where we stand and look about us us it doesn't look round — more flat, really — so it can be that although we know we will die one day and that our life in the meantime will be subject to changes we don't expect for predict, even so it all seems to be going on like this for such a long time that it feels as if it could be for ever. (Gosh, that was a long sentence.)

My outlook on life and change has been shaped by two particular things. 

The first was that in my childhood, no one stayed in the same place for very long. My father (who spoke many languages) worked overseas, establishing an export market for Eveready Batteries — in Scandinavia, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Congo, Japan, all sorts of places. He would be away for months at a time, and home only a short while before it was time to go again. He lived poised to leave, everything packed up tidily in plastic bags all ready to put in a suitcase and go. My mother ran our home, and made all the decisions about it. My father had one small single bedroom (allocated by her and the d├ęcor chosen by her) in which he kept his few small personal things. My mother, meanwhile, focused on her (and our) home as a career. Our gardens were ambitious and immaculate, growing our fruit and vegetables (and adding in due course sheep and hens) and wonderful displays of flowers. Our houses were most tastefully decorated and furnished. My parents were born near the end of the 1920s, so their adult lives as home-owners coincided with the decades of post-war property boom. My mother gradually inherited smaller and larger lumps of capital, which she invested entirely in property. In every house where we lived she remodelled the building with imaginative reconfigurations and extensions, and we moved house every few years as she worked our way up the property ladder. So my childhood was influenced by the example and experience of constant change, determined by somebody else. I lived in an environment where nothing was chosen by me and everything designed to sell; and my father was always leaving. Even when he came home he was leaving. Our home was much of the time in process of being rebuilt, and our routine was incessantly disrupted by my father being often not there but expecting to be accommodated and influence what happened when he was there. So I grew up with a sense that everything is fluid and impermanent. Nothing is yours and nothing stays the same and nobody stays anywhere long. The connections I made with monks and nuns and Hutterites living in community, as a young adult, tended to reinforce this view — because they own nothing and surrender control over their lives and are moved often.

The second thing that shaped my outlook on life and change is the work I have done. I worked for a few years with nuns who ran a home for people who had epilepsy and multiple profound disabilities. Among them were young children, among whom were several whose mothers had done their darnedest to look after them at home but burned out. Burn-out is resisted and the collapse comes suddenly — all of a sudden you just can't do this any more. So the little kids came into the residential care facility where I worked having lived their 9 years (or whatever age they were) so far in constant close personal proximity to their mother — who suddenly dropped them off with us. Quite often the mother's marriage did not survive the rigours of caring for a child with unusually profound needs, so the relationship of mother and child had been one-to-one. And suddenly it stopped. Several of these children were very autistic and without speech, unable to communicate emotion. In an environment run by nuns who were all required to practice self-effacement, behaviour was the emphasis not feelings. And I remember one little girl who came to us because her parents could no longer manage her at home. Her mother was a very neat and modest woman, and the little girl was impeccably dressed — she looked like Milly Molly Mandy with her pretty dresses and white ankle socks and Mary-Jane shoes. She had been in perfect health and doing very well at school, a bright child conditioned by high expectations of behaviour from her middle-class parents. Then she had a routine vaccination which caused unexpected damage to her central nervous system. Suddenly all she could do was stand, slowly revolving, her eyes vacant, unresponsive to anything said to her though she would go with you if you led her by the hand. She could eat if you fed her, and would sit down or lie down if you required her to. She could no longer speak, at all. She was eight years old. 

Later on in my life I worked in hospice and in nursing homes, and cared for people whose lives were ending. In the nursing homes I looked after people whose lives had been changed forever by catastrophic illness — the family doctor used to calling the shots, who remained imperious and demanding even though he was in pyjamas and confined to his bed by chrome rails; the priest too fat and weak to get out of his chair who consoled himself in his confusion and loneliness by his large stash of sherry kept in his wardrobe; the racing driver who crashed his car forty years ago at the age of 26 and had been in bed ever since; the headmistress who had been running a private school for girls one month and was in a nursing home room with us, for good, the next, after a massive stroke. 

I saw what it was not only to die but also to live with a small allocation of space in a shared room, with no control over your body, and that changed my understanding of the nature and certainties of life.

Then, much later, after my first husband had left me — and I thought marriage meant for ever — I picked myself up and started again, but my second husband (who had been the fittest man I ever personally knew, vigorous and strong) died fifteen months into our marriage.

I guess it is perhaps unusual to have had so much up close and personal experience of impermanence, but even for people who are oblivious, radical unexpected change is still an abiding possibility. 

One of the benefits of minimalism is that it allows a person to absorb and respond to change — it minimises the trauma and disruption of upheaval and loss. Moving house, sharing with others, managing one's own weakness and vulnerability, living on a low income, coping with illness, and then dying — all of it is made easier to manage by minimalism.

A lot of possessions to curate, a heavy schedule to manage, and a complex social framework with all the expectations that entails — these impose requirements of ability and capacity that not all of us have; and sometimes, suddenly the music stops. If that happened to you, are you satisfied with the life conditions you'd have at the point of sudden arrest? Would they leave you free and peaceful to absorb and respond to sudden traumatic change? 

Buddhist teaching about impermanence, and Taoist teaching about responsiveness, adaptability and flow, have helped me immensely in understanding and responding to catastrophic change and endings (whether in my own life or in the lives of others). I have found that minimalism is key to living at peace with impermanence, and to enhancing adaptability to life's constant flow. Put simply, it reduces the problems in life because it reduces everything. And I suppose I have learned a preference for living always ready to go, with not a moment's notice.

Today I am sending on their way some bits and pieces from my altar. I took the labels off the prayer boxes and re-used them (along with the little piece of cord for a cross) in the crafter's kit I made for Freegle. The quotations and pictures and leaflet of the Metta Sutta I put into a ceremonial prayer fire. 

Even though they were not expensive or substantial, these were things I loved and wanted to hang on to, and did for a long time; but I want to dig deep in going through what I choose to take with me, and find my way to the bedrock of what is (for the present moment) essential.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

730 things — Day 55 of 365

Bandwidth is something I've had to learn to take into account, especially as I, and all my family with me, grow older and the patterns of our life establish. Living in a shared house where there's almost always someone other than me at home and most purchases arrive by delivery (yes, BANG BANG BANG, DING-DONG, DING-DONG), is a guarantee of unexpected interruption, and broken concentration is a challenge to quality thinking.

Looking back now, it astonishes me to recollect how many things at the same time I once expected to be able to accomplish. There was a patch when I was raising five small children, pastoring a church, working in hospice chaplaincy and prison ministry, writing books and interacting with a significant network of friends and fellow-pilgrims. Nowadays I think I've done something special if I put a load of laundry in the machine or sweep the floor.

Buzzfloyd observes that as a result of certain deep traumas coming in waves from different places, I ended up with autistic burnout which has crashed my ability to multi-task and resulted in most social stimuli being overwhelming — and she's quite right. I still function happily, but more in the inner world than the outer. I'm a bit of an Emily Dickinson nowadays.

So in anything I aspire to do, I have to consider bandwidth — my ageing and somewhat battered operating system is easily overwhelmed and crashes if too much is asked of it.

I have found that I can maximise the available space for thinking, writing, praying — all the things that matter to me — by minimising the number of physical objects in my environment. What I see is what I think about. The less I have to look at, the more untethered my mind becomes. I also maximise bandwidth by reducing social interaction (in times of a pandemic when physical meets are almost at zero, that means minimising the time spent on social media), and by keeping to an absolutely anorexic minimum my commitments. I find I can maintain good quality (I hope) output at our fresh expression of church (The Campfire Church) on Facebook if that's the only thing I need to put my mind to, on the week I have responsibility for the meeting.

And I am impressed — even startled at times — by the amount of clarity and depth of thought I can get back just by taking down to an absolute minimum those three areas — objects in my environment, social interaction, commitments.

Consequently I have pruned out of my collection of belongings many things that were perfectly okay and I liked them and there was nothing wrong with them — just in order to take the numbers right down.

So these two jackets, that I liked very much, left my life.

They fulfilled all my HSP criteria — stretchy and really soft, not at all constricting, quite loose, had pockets (yay!), quiet and peaceful colours, nice and warm. 

But I just had too many things, and I'm surprised to find I don't miss them. 

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

730 things — Day 54 of 365

England has some interesting place names that, with the passing of time and the development of language, have come to sound distinctly odd and in some cases acquired amusing connotations.

At various times in my life I've lived near



Nether Wallop

Pratts Bottom

When my children were small, we had some pictures on the wall in our toilet (things to look at can be helpfully relaxing for people whose guts are routinely affected by stress), and among them was a newspaper headline that had caught my eye:


Perfect for a toilet, I thought.  

Whatever had once defined and constrained Scratchy Bottom, there it was in the newspaper — they had released it into the wild again, let it start again and go back to what it wanted to be.

When I finish writing a blog post, I have the option to save it as "draft" or select "publish" once I'm satisfied with it. But then, after it's published I still have the option, at any time I wish, to choose "return to draft".

And, of course, if I'm in the middle of creating something but it's still incomplete — I'm not quite there with it yet — at any point if I want to I can "save as draft" and come back to it later. In fact that happened between the last paragraph and this one; you can't see it, but it did. A pop-up notification at the top right of my screen caught my eye: "Your computer will close for updates in 59 seconds." Aaagh! It's meant to update during the night and it's well morning by now — almost eight o'clock in fact. Perhaps it's on an American schedule? Who knows? Computers retain an element of mystery.

So I saved what I was writing to draft, and waited peacefully (if impatiently) for about twelve minutes until it returned to a state of natural space.

One of the things minimalism can do for you is return your life to draft. 

Sometimes, people on a journey into simplicity or minimalism hit the buffers — for a while, anyway. I've watched a video with the self-styled "The Minimalists" (Joshua Fields Millburn and his friend whose name I've temporarily forgotten) where a woman wrote in asking for their advice. She said she'd done all her de-cluttering and got rid of loads of stuff, but now she'd reached her target level of belongings and achieved the minimalism she wanted, she felt empty. Why? What should she do? They might have responded by telling her it was because she'd worked so hard, and with such focus and creativity, that there was bound to be an sense of emptiness before what was new began to form. They might have spoken about how life goes in seasons, and the winters when everything has ended are always followed by the new growth of spring. They could have talked to her about how it is when someone dies — if you are their carer it absorbs you body and soul, and once the journey's complete you have this dreadful feeling of emptiness and no idea what to do with all this time you suddenly have; but then the next phase of your life re-establishes, and you begin again. They could have said any of that — but no. The friend (I've still forgotten his name) rather condescendingly told her she must have been doing it wrong; minimalism is not an end in itself, you're meant to de-clutter to make way for your exciting plans, not just because. So that was disappointing.

I think all that had happened was that she'd reached a moment when minimalism had returned her life to draft — and the wisest course of action would be not to abandon the project and re-clutter, but save it to draft — time to take a break, have a breather, come back to it later and see how to shape the new.

In her book The Art of Emptiness, Carolyn Hetzel has an interesting chapter called Time, Space, Silence and Shakespeare.

The "Shakespeare" part of this refers to the famous line from Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be or not to be? That is the question."

And Carolyn says of time, space and silence:

What they have in common is this: they are areas of potentiality, blank matrices that underlie and enable the existence of everything we perceive.

Silence allows sound. Space allows material. Time allows evolution. These are three forms of unfolding. Silence, space and time have the interesting characteristic of being and not being simultaneous[ly], whether Shakespeare likes it or not. It is the unmanifested absolute of spiritual traditions.

She makes the point that practising minimalism gives you back silence, space and time, and therefore restores potential. It returns your life to draft, your Scratchy Bottom to a state of natural space. "What will you do with your one wild life?" (Mary Oliver) becomes an unanswered question once more — which explains the sense of emptiness experienced by the woman who wrote in to "The Minimalists".

Not only does minimalism return your life to draft, it also disables the handles people have on you. In our society we are primarily defined and evaluated by our possessions — our car, house, clothes, jewellery — and by our affiliations, occupation and connections. Minimalism dismantles or hides these. A one-bag digital nomad travelling the world with 15 possessions is remarkably difficult for others to rank and grade according to category or fit into any mental schema. They are often misunderstood as a result, because the mind offers up the nearest matching pre-sets which are sometimes "free-loader" or "hobo" or "bum". I suppose this is partly why we like to signal our aspirations in a display of things we own; so that others will have a respectful and admiring estimate of our worth. I mean, loads of people have numerous books they don't read because they are drawn to the image of "intellectual". And plenty of women who wish they were young and beautiful have a collection of clothing that fit them when they were ten years younger and two sizes smaller.

Minimalism goes some way towards deleting personal history (Carlos Castaneda wrote about this in Journey to Ixtlan), or at least the outward signs of it, and that has the effect of returning your life to draft.

The absolute potential of silence, space and time, that Carolyn Hetzel observes minimalism tapping, is akin to the Zen concept of The Uncarved Block — the limitless potential that exists before someone gets to work limiting it by shape and definition, cutting away all the bits that don't look like a lion or a horse.

Minimalism differs from organising in that it restores potentiality, returns you to a state of natural space, where organising keeps all the clutter — just boxed up.

Pursuing this thought in my choice of things to give away today, I've put on Freegle (thank you for doing that for me, Tony) a set of fabric boxes for keeping things in.

Because if the things have returned to a state of natural space, they no longer need their boxes. This may not be permanent. Anything could happen.

[Oh, look! May the 4th be with you.]

Monday, 3 May 2021

730 things — Day 53 of 365

 Rhyming, music and alliteration are very good ways of helping people remember things. That's why advertising jingles are effective — I can still remember the songs of ads from the 60s ("A Double Diamond works wonders" and the double-mint gum song with the twins). Even people lost in dementia can often be recalled to themselves by music — people in nursing homes can sing along with the words of hymns even though they have no idea who you are, and then there are people like this ballet dancer.

Ads incorporating rhyme are equally memorable — "du vin, du pain, du Boursin" comes to mind. When I was a child my mother one year gave me a little book of proverbs (which I loved) for my birthday. One I especially liked went, 

"Of all the sayings in the world the one to see you through, 

Is never trouble trouble until trouble troubles you."

The rhyme means I remember it still, more than fifty years later.

And alliteration — "sun, sex and Sangria" would probably sell a holiday. Sets of three are very helpful. I find if I have to remember a fourth thing I usually drop one. For instance I can never remember all four of the Quaker testimonies (simplicity, integrity, equality and peace) at once. I always forget one and have to look them up. I forget a different one each time, and if I'm out walking thinking about it, and far from a computer, I can recall them all to mind with sustained effort; but three is easier.

Music, rhyme and alliteration all help to fix things in your mind, and can be utilised to advance and deepen progress on your chosen path.

So a little bit of alliteration. Prioritise and persevere. No third thing, so that should make it even easier. If a set of three helps you, add in "pray" if you like — the wind of the Spirit in your sails is going to enhance anything, isn't it?

But prioritising and persevering is absolutely the way to effect change. Sporadic massive efforts tend to create burnout and pendulum swings (like yo-yo dieting) that mainly serve to deepen the problem. It's "the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step" that works — one step at a time, little by little, but keep at it, keep going — prioritise it and persevere. This applies to minimalism and simplicity, but also to financial management and building sound nutritional practice and pretty much anything else. It's true of exercise as well; but, as I am allergic to even thinking about exercise, I won't go there. 

My mother used to say the thing that is essential but also difficult is to both maintain and progress; key to obtaining an effective result is to build on what you had without losing the ground you already made. And that is achieved by prioritisation and perseverance. As Aesop pointed out with his hare and tortoise story, "slow and steady wins the race".

My two things sent on their way today will be this knitted tunic and velvet leggings.

I like them very much, but on my elderly figure the top looks merely sad and baggy — and while I anticipated the leggings would look dressy for an evening out, they do but a) I almost never go anywhere these days and b) the velvet is unnervingly shiny and triggers HSP irritation. So off they go. 

Remember: prioritise and persevere.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

730 things — Day 52 of 365

 A most healthy aspect of the way of minimalism/simplicity is that it strongly encourages its pilgrims to leave failure behind.

There's a tendency, isn't there, to absorb the idea of "you've made your bed — well, now you've got to lie in it!" And that's so miserable. 

However hard we think, however carefully we strategise, even when we do the very best we can, we're still going to get things wrong some of the time, aren't we? And the more inventive and adventurous and curious we are, the more we'll get wrong. If we stick to what we already know and can already do and walk only the well-trodden paths, we'll get less wrong — but how extremely boring.

Minimalism grabs that particular tree and shakes it hard. It absolutely makes you face up to the reality that if you keep the tunic with a peplum which makes you look like Nellie the elephant, and the jeans that fit you when you were thirteen, and twenty-four pairs of shoes and a selection of wide-brimmed hats in case you ever go on holiday — either there'll be no room left for anything sensible or before you know it there'll be a sliding heap of detritus taking over the floor.

The way of simplicity firmly assists you in reaching (again and again) the conclusion that, yes, this purchase was an error.

Let me offer you two examples.

The first is a little set of silicone egg poachers.

I didn't get them to poach eggs. Last year I cut the bottoms off a couple of plastic one-litre milk cartons — the ones like this —

— and I made holes in the four corners with a skewer, and threaded freezer ties through to hang them from the branches of the cherry tree. As a crow can easily land on a tree branch and a seagull can't, this allowed me to successfully feed our crows in such a way that they could eat peacefully without being endlessly harassed by jealous herring gulls who had scoffed their own supper in one massive gulp.

However, that particular rig-up was a bit precarious and hard to maintain, not least because the crows thought it was fun to partially undo the freezer ties securing the thing to the branch, and I only had a wobbly chair to stand on to reach up and put them right again.

Then I thought of those silicone egg poachers you can get, with ready-made holes, and the perfect size for crow food. So I bought a set, and you know what? The crows hated them. Spurned them utterly. Would have nothing to do with them. Why? I haven't the faintest idea. I showed them, explained it to them, hung them in the easy to reach and familiar places. Nope. Nothing doing. They've been hanging up all winter. 

Now, silicone is more or less indestructible, so when I took them back down out of the tree they looked as good as new. So I washed them up and poached an egg for my tea. 

And then I thought — no, look, this is stupid. Because when I poach eggs I just chuck them in the boiling water and that works perfectly well. I don't need to add a silicone egg poacher that I then have to wash up, just because I bought the damn thing. Time to draw a line under it, I decided. So that's gone on its way.

And the second thing I disposed of was a book.

This book, to be precise:

Now, I write books myself and I know how disheartening a negative review can be, so I'm not going to tell you either the title or the author. That's why I put a postcard over it, so you can't see.

But I will tell you this. What I expected to be interesting and inspiring and educational proved to be such unmitigated tosh that I wouldn't even send it to the charity shop. I thought it was going to be such a great book I even bought it in hardback — didn't wait for the e-book or the paperback to come out. So I paid (by my standards) quite a lot for it.

And this is where it went.

Sometimes, in life, in relationships, and in buying things, you just get it wrong. 

And the way of simplicity and minimalism encourage you to accept that every now and then it will be so, and to cut loose and move on. Don't hide it in the back of the cupboard. Don't palm it off on your unsuspecting relatives. Don't pretend you'll use it when you really never will. Just get rid of it. If you don't want it, don't keep it. Leave it behind.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

730 things — Day 51 of 365

 Definition of terms. (mine — others may disagree)

Simplicity. A person espousing simplicity is someone who lays aside the pretensions of status and wealth. They choose what is ordinary, small and humble, close to the earth. Monks, nuns and hermits live in simplicity. St Francis of Assisi was the living icon of simplicity. It is sometimes called voluntary poverty, and it is beautiful. Poverty that is not chosen freely grinds people down. 

Minimalism. St Francis, like Jesus, was also a minimalist, but there is a distinction to be drawn between simplicity and minimalism. All monastics and hermits live in simplicity, but some of them acquire a heck of a lot of clobber in their domains. I have known people who lived very generous and unpretentious lives, focussed on faith and kindness, free of vanity and ambition, who I would say had their feet on the way of simplicity — but they were certainly no minimalists. Minimalism deliberately reduces levels of ownership of physical items (usually de-cluttering digitally as well) to — as the name implies — a minimal amount, and also monitors levels of commitment in terms of time and relationship. Minimalism aims to create calm and reduce complication (not complexity — nobody can do that, life is inherently complex). Minimalists, unlike (in general) people who live simply, often use charts and numbers to evaluate where they've reached — how many items in the wardrobe, how many things owned altogether, that sort of thing, as well as progress in terms of spiritual practice, career and relationship. Some minimalists are very chic and elegant sophisticated people; they are sometimes snobbish. So it is possible to be a minimalist and not have your feet on the path of simplicity just as one can live simply without being a minimalist. Many people got into minimalism because they are sensorily extremely sensitive, or are on the autistic spectrum, or live with neurological challenges to do with either stimuli or organisation — so many of them were either hoarders of living in overwhelm and confusion before, and chose minimalism as a method of calming the soul. It does do that.

Extreme minimalism or essentialism. These are the people who really go for broke in terms of limiting their possessions, often in order to achieve a specific goal. Increasing numbers of Western middle-class people are echoing the path of the digital nomad, for a variety of reasons — necessity (a marriage break-up resulting in poverty, redundancy, a young adult with insufficient resources to buy a home), or the desire to travel, or a preference not to be tied down. Extreme minimalists or essentialists live with the absolutely smallest number of possessions — so, no furniture usually. Most often they limit themselves to a rucksack (not a huge one, 35 or 40 litres). They sometimes have a place to call home, but often live in a hotel. They aren't usually people who have fallen on hard times but are very focused and talented individuals able to make a living from public speaking or life coaching or occupations that can be run online, like accountancy, magazine illustration or writing. The digital revolution has allowed writers to live as minimalists, and (as you will see) it therefore suited me very well as an occupation.

I started out on the path of simplicity, because I fell head over heels in love with the way of St Francis when I was fifteen. I later also encountered Gandhi and loved him too. I moved on to what you might call a kind of half-baked minimalism as a response to inescapable life circumstances. In my first marriage five children were born to us and we didn't have much money and I believed in staying home to raise my own kids myself. So we could only afford a small house, with a lodger to make ends meet. The way to make it work was not to own much — minimising possessions maximised the space. When that marriage ended I was a Methodist minister living in a spacious manse; but the way the marriage ended brought our entire family circumstances to a crashing halt — his work, my work, and our home. So the furniture I'd accumulated had to go. Our family was scattered into little dwellings we managed to secure, and then I married again. But I married a widower whose first wife had been his soulmate and he still had all her stuff in his home on the edge of a wood, where he was utterly rooted. So though he welcomed me, he could offer only two drawers and half a cupboard for my possessions, so I thought, "Fair enough," and moved in. When he unexpectedly died a couple of years later, having left that house to his son, it was very handy to be able to toss my kit into the back of a Nissan Micra and drive away.

Then I married a third time, but that involved leaving my work — so my income abruptly ceased — to travel three hours up country. So I took lodgers to give me something to live on while I thought what to do next. As my new husband at that time had plenty of possessions, having lodgers meant reducing my personal possessions to what would fit in an under-bed drawer. 

I settled into a couple of decades of full-time writing — and yes, writing Christian fiction is an excellent way of keeping a person firmly located in minimalistic simplicity. During that time we moved back down to the coast to live in the shared house where we are now. This stratagem got all the tribe out of rented accommodation into owner-occupied, which I regard as a good thing. I see the financial commitments of an ordinary person as dividing into two neat halves like a walnut — accommodation, and everything else. If you can nail the accommodation, everything else is flexible and minimalism makes it manageable, so I wanted to be sure they all had somewhere to live — albeit small or shared. By no means did I pay for everything, but sharing was what enabled me to help.

So in our present shared house I live in what's often called the box room — the small room above the vestibule just inside the front door. Being quite a spacious house, as box rooms go mine is roomy. Tony built me a wardrobe and a little set of shelves (tall and thin like a CD tower), and I have a chair. Tony also made me a bed. My room will literally accommodate a full length bed, but is too narrow to put the bed in place — because there's a moment when you bring it down from standing on end when it needs a couple of inches more than it needs in position; a couple of inches more than my room has. And a bed frame with two beds screwed on won't work either, because there's a moment when the ends aren't yet in place that you need a couple of inches for your screwdriver to screw in the screws — and that space isn't there. So for a while I slept on the floor, then I asked Tony to make me a bed base the height of a sofa (seat), composed of two frame units each half the length of a bed. So I could just lift each one down straight. And he did, and bingo! It worked. I do like to sleep up high. I like my bed to be as hard as a floor, but raised. 

So the path I have travelled has nudged me into minimalism as I went along, mainly by noticing that problems would go away for other people if I didn't own much. But it's also true that my own problems go away if I don't own much, so don't go thinking I'm particularly unselfish; just pragmatic, really. And the less I own, the fewer problems I have. 

I would really like to be an extreme minimalist / essentialist; that feels like my true north in terms of this particular journey. But I don't think that's actually likely to happen, because I have some things — the picture my prayer partner Margery painted, various things Tony made (my bed, my shelves, a little stool), some lovely artefacts my daughters have made me. I can't see how I would ever part from them. So I stick with minimalism. I couldn't get my possessions into a rucksack, it's true, but I could fit them into a the back of a car and relocate to a fairly small shed if the need arose. A surprising amount of stuff does creep in over time, but every now and then — as this year — I have a cull and take it back down to the floor.

So (are you still awake?) here is what I'm moving on today.

For my bed, as the frame is more functional than beautiful, I got a red valance sheet to go on the frame under the mattress and make a frill round the frame. I've had it there some years and it's annoyed me that entire time. It makes it harder to make the bed and hard to clean under it. The mattress gradually travels and takes the sheet with it, meaning it adds a pointless red frill while still exposing the frame. But I can't pull it back into position because it has a mattress on top weighing it down. Since the duvet overhangs the side of the bed anyway, it occurred to e this morning I don't need that valance sheet at all.

So here it is sitting in my laundry basket waiting to be washed and sent to the charity shop.

Then the other thing is indeed an emblem of how stuff creeps up on you. Some people in Hastings where I live started up in business selling Kombucha. If you bought above a certain monetary threshold they'd deliver it free, each time collecting (to re-use) the bottles from last week. Then two things happened — a) we stopped buying it because the sugar levels in Kombucha (while low in this particular brand) are a bit too high, and b) they changed their branding to use different bottles so didn't need back the ones we had. That was some months ago, but I still had the bottles, sitting in a little nook in the cupboard. So this morning I put them out in the kitchen bin ready to go for recycling when the lorry next comes by.

Friday, 30 April 2021

730 things — Day 50 of 365

Increasingly, in recent years, I've grown to be what you might call jaded. 

Conventional expressions of religion bore me, when they are separated from the practice of the way they proclaim. Self-help gurus don't (help me).

I prize beyond measure those very few teachers of truth whose soul shines clear like a ray of morning sun — those people who live with unadorned and humble authenticity. They restore me to myself. They comfort me. They lift me up.

One such person is Dee Williams. There's not a huge amount about her online, but here's a video where she offers her perspective on life, and I commend it to you.

What a shining soul, eh? A porch light left on to guide you home.

Well, today I am moving on from my life a couple of items that surprised me by leaving — because I was sure I wanted to keep them; a linen jacket and a cord skirt.

They fit me, there's nothing wrong with them, I thought I wanted them.

I thought the skirt would allow me to look presentable at a formal occasion. I thought if I ever have to speak in public it would be handy to have a tailored jacket.

But I've come to feel that I'm done with formal occasions now, and if I'm not acceptable as I am then I'd rather not go there at all. I no longer want personas, I just want my clothes to be clothes. And I don't think I'll be speaking in public any more. Selective mutism begins to shut me down when I have to do that and fighting against it takes all my strength and a bit more that I don't have. I think these clothes were made for the person I once was, but they have no relevance for who I am today. So I've let them go.

I hope they'll make the charity shop a little bit of money.