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Friday, 3 January 2014

Sleeping With One's Soul, Taking Time Off

Thank you to Gail Martin Stevens, my friend and help, for sending me this
It has been a few weeks since I have written a blog, and you may wonder if I became so concerned about the ageing process (the last blog was about ageing http://antoniarollsartistextraordinaire.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/on-noticing-that-one-is-ageing.html ) that I took time off to recover in a local nursing home.  I took time off, yes, but spent it here in Bognor.  Today I am back though I suspect I am only half way through my time off, and that, time off, is what I want to talk about today.

After taking AGD to Bridport, I began to wind down.  By the beginning of December I was having to admit to myself that I had stopped functioning and that I needed everything to stop. I simply could not think straight.  The little spring of creativity that bubbles away dried up completely, the excitement about the future left me, and everything turned a shade or two darker.  It was not simply that I was tired, it was that I was spent.  I had allowed myself to become wrung dry, and there was nothing left to work with.  The light went out.

I took time off, and stopped.  I say that as if it was a decision, but actually, it just happened.  The nature of being wrung dry is that you stop making decisions, you just are.  You sit there stripped to the basics, and let everything pass over your head.  Coming to a stand still over work is quite something.  It isn't as if my life was segmented neatly so that if I stopped work, the family part would just continue, the social part would carry on and the other bits and pieces would function quite merrily because all the parts were nicely separate and autonomous.  The work section of my life, and I wonder if you are like this, covered every little part of every little bit of my time.  I lived my work, and into that slotted all other things.  All other things became relevant to what I was doing, they didn't stand alone, anything that was floating about independently was vigourously lassoed back into the great work thing.  And so coming to a stand still, where I simply could not do anything at all any more, meant that all sorts of other bits and pieces came to a stop too.

And so.  Time off.  How do you feel about it?  Does it make you shudder?  Do you long for it?  Do you think you can do it, or do you think it is too difficult to manage.  Have you already done it, and did it work?  Lord, what a paradox.  It is a tiny thing to do.  And yet it is too big to contemplate.  Before I took time off, it was far too difficult to fit it in, it got in the way, it scared me, and it was detrimental.  In theory, it's a great idea, all the best people advocate it.  Yes, I said to myself, they can say that, they don't have to struggle as much as I do.  And time off for them is about making a choice with lots of backup to keep things ticking over. If I stop, then everything will cease, and I will disappear, and I will never, ever, be in control again, everyone will forget me, the whole caravan will move on without me and so time off is actually dangerous.

But, one day I just ceased to do anything and that was that.  Simple.  Which is, I suspect, is how many of us find the value of Time Off.  Our little minds, bodies and souls lie down one afternoon and go to sleep.  Too much!  They say, you pushed us too hard.  Now you follow us and lie down and sleep.  One day, we cannot and will not tell you when, we will all wake up and start again in unison.  And you think to yourself, yes.  I will follow you, because I can't remember how to work, I can't remember what I was supposed to be doing.  I don't remember anything any more.

I realise now that I did not disappear. How amazing!  I am still here, and all the things that I could do before, I can do still.  Just not at the moment.  Oh we fear the stopping of the hamster wheel we are on, we think that if it does stop, if we fall off, that it is only a problem.  It is more desirable to be on that hamster wheel than off it.  We are on it because we have convinced ourselves that we are indispensable, and though we may be very important, somehow, life will go on even if we have to stop and it doesn't mean that we cease to exist or lose our value.  It is funny, but life does go on, with or without us.  I am beginning to see that I have feared silence, space and stopping as a vacuum, and therefore hostile, and I have only contemplated it as something to be planned, put in its place, controlled, with a time limit and taking notes all the time I am sitting down and taking my time off in case I miss something.  Ha.

A wonderfully sentimental photo of me to make my point.  Which is....?
It has taken at least a month for me to feel something of the silence around me and enjoy it a bit. I am aware now, when I was unaware before, that I am in a state of transition.  All I have to do is sit with it and see it through.  All!  It is extremely hard.  I am aware that this nothing is something I have feared and avoided for ever, and yet, it is not as bad now as it was.  The main thing is, that I am still here and despite the emptiness and everything being a few shades darker, I am quite relieved to be out of the loop.  I am, I understand, very weary.  Sleeping with my wise old soul, and mind, is secretly, a relief.

In the meantime, life has been continuing, as it does, and I am noticing things.  First, that my Angry Boy is changing and is seeking my company.  He is almost, a little, imperceptibly, coming back.  And so, second, I am grateful to the point of tears, that this is happening.  Thirdly, I have become the weight I always wanted to be and it was not hard.  Fourth, a sense that the work I have been doing is completed.  The next stage is taking a vague shape in my mind, and that perhaps my mind, my soul, is so much wiser than I will ever be, to stop me when I needed to stop, and let me prepare.  Fifth, I have painted two True Fairies, and Eileen says they are good and Giant Boy says they are rubbish.  But I have painted them because I felt like it and they are, actually, just right.  And finally, for now, being in this place of total emptiness and passivity, is important because if I am to be of any use, I have to know how this feels.  I have to experience the nothing, because how can I understand anyone else, if I haven't felt like nothing and still continued to live and not disappear?

And so.  Back to now.  In essence, I am always the same.  I found a photo of me aged about one year old that embodies that essence.  It is about having always been the true fairy, and keeping an eye on the sandwiches.  I leave you with this because at the end of the day, this is what my soul looks like.

The essence of the True Fairy lives on.  In my soul I am always looking for sandwiches.