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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

We for whom the sofa is our spiritual home.

The sofa.

Very spiritual.
My spiritual home is on the sofa.  My heart and soul thrive here, and what is more, I have two, a pink one, and a red one.  On a bad day I hear their siren call as I go about my business.  Come to me, they say, come to me and sit down and I will make it all go away. Bring tea, bring peanut butter, and I will look after you, bring it all to me and forget about the outside world.  You belong here where time stands still and YouTube never runs out of your favourite police documentaries - come and lie down with us.  On good days they say Nope, off you go, get your stuff done and come and see us later.  Bye.

There had been a time when I needed to lie on my sofas with peanut butter and let time go, when recovering from great loss in 2017, but by 2019 I had actually become the sofa.  Now, in 2020, my relationship with the sofa was co dependent, and we were no longer very good for each other.  It was, it is, a place of great spiritual comfort and wisdom, but it had become all give and no take.  It gave and I took.

Last week, from my red sofa, I saw an advert for a Mighty Hike for Macmillan.  I do stuff for Macmillan, I thought, popping another pick and mix into my mouth, let's have a look.

The Mighty Hike, it said, is a sponsored twenty six mile marathon hike across the South Downs in June.  I love the South Downs, I thought. The photos looked so much fun that I found myself following the links and before I knew it, I had signed up. Thank you, said the computer, here is your training plan and a link to Just Giving.  See you at the starting point.

I was going to have to start training. 

The Training.

South Downs. Wondering if I should continue.
I love Macmillan.  I am a volunteer buddy, and I go into peoples homes and support them emotionally when they are struggling with their cancer journey.  It was going to be a good thing to get off the sofa and into some trainers, and a very good thing to do it for Macmillan.  But I have not moved for years.  I have watched my friend Gill with envy, Gill likes to go outside whenever she can and walk.  She walks everywhere, she is fit and healthy and a very good role model but I have refused to walk with her up till now because I could not see why anyone would choose to do that when they could sit down.  My co dependent sofa and me again. 

Following my training plan, I did some teeny walks along the seafront.  I went out during one of the recent storms and thought that it constituted cross training because I was walking, pushing against the wind, and struggling over the shingle from the beach.  Brilliant, I thought.  Soon, I decided to drive to the South Downs and do my first proper long rugged walk.  With my walking trainers on, I wrapped myself in waterproofs and began the walk.

No one was on the Downs because it was so wet.  The big storm last week had flooded the meadows and the tracks, and created mud that was not only deep, it was slippery, cold and everywhere.  Oh, I walked into that mud because there was no other way forward and because I did not understand mud.  I tried to find tufts of grass to help me through, but the mud soon devoured those too.  Finally, I slipped off the last tussock and fell into the mud.  It is good I have fallen into this mud, I thought as I lay there sinking slowly, as there was a flooded lake of water either side and I could have fallen into that. I got up, somehow, hands deep in the mud up to the elbow, and made my way to a rough chalk track leading upwards to some woods in the distance.  It is good no one is watching, I thought.  I felt a little like the person who goes up the Cairngorms in plimsolls when snow is forecast, just to have a look at the pretty weather.
French Lieutenant's Woman

Once out of the mud, on the chalk track leading upwards, facing into the rain and wind, I understood that I could not get wetter, nor more muddy, and it was time to enjoy myself. 

Well, I did enjoy myself in many ways.  I was beyond caring what I looked like, I was alone in the elements on the South Downs, I was free to be any character in any film I chose and no one would judge me, and after a while I was soaked and warm, not soaked and cold as I had been while lying in the mud.  Seasoned walkers, if they could have seen me, would have been amused, but I did not care because I had spirit and I was cross training again, in a way. 

 I passed some woods, sighing and creaking in the wind, and came to a main road and leaning on the gate separating the walk from the busy road, I felt extremely proud of myself.  I had walked about two and a half miles.  Watching the cars speeding by, I briefly fantasised about calling a taxi, and sighing, turned to walk the two and a half miles back. 

Two and a half miles back, downhill.

Back to the sofa.

On returning to my car, I removed my skirt, took off my waterproofs, hat, scarf, gloves and shoes and drove home in my tights and jumper.  It felt like a badge of honour to drive home in my underwear.
Flesh wound.

My sofas welcomed me home with open arms.  You done good! They said, and for the first time in ages, I felt good about being there with my tea and peanut butter and YouTube binge.  It's OK!  They said, You deserve it.

Having a goal like this, a physical goal of walking twenty six miles in June, has given me reason to get up and move.  It is easy to sit on the sofa with a plan for the day, and simply get lost in the inertia so that I become a blob.  That is when the co dependent relationship with my dear innocent sofas becomes a burden.  I simply have no interest in breaking the pattern, and no reason to do it - Gill can walk all she likes but I am on my sofa goddammit. I can walk to the studio, I can walk to the kitchen, but anything more is an affront.  And the thing is, I do not really like it when I am a blob.  Not really.  But I get stuck in a mindset that says that there is no point in changing anything, and anyway, it is cold and wet outside. 

But now!  Thanks to Macmillan and the Mighty Hike, I am an athlete!  I can wade through shingle, mud and wind, I can do four miles in a gale in a skirt, and I am inspired.  Is it just that now I have a goal and something to achieve?  Is it that I needed something or someone else to give me a shove off the sofa?  Possibly, but it does not matter.  I am training to walk this marathon, I am relieved that I have a reason to do something a bit challenging so that I can come back to my dear sofas, my spiritual home, and sink into their now healthy embrace while I not only watch You Tube, but I write blogs.  I write newsletters.  I email interesting people with gusto because I just went for a walk and I rock. Dammit, I rock.  (And I am creating the Addicts And Those Who Love Them exhibition.  More on that next blog in two weeks time).

Epilogue

There is a sacred space in every home.  A place that holds the spiritual keys to our peace, our welfare and our souls.  Many do not know there is this place, they have either yet to create it, or they do not know that they can. You can!  Go, do it now! A small altar, a thinking corner, a reading space, it is your safe space and it is entirely yours.  If someone else claims it, fight them off.  Or go and find a better space and make sure everyone knows it is yours; do not share unless you really want to, or have to, and if you really have to share, make sure there is always a teeny secret bit that is totally yours.

When my sofas are my spiritual home and I am benefiting from them, all is well.  I have perspective.  When I become lazy, I do not benefit much, and it all becomes a bit heavy.  I turn into a blob and then I am sorry for myself.

But I am not sorry for myself today!  There is a bit of wind and rain outside, it is time to go outside. My sofas are as inspired as I am.  Off you go! They say, and when you come back, have double peanut butter, and tell us all about it.

******************

I am walking this Mighty Hike in memory of my first Buddy, Margaret.  She was a wonderful teacher, we became firm friends despite a thirty five year age gap, and I stayed with Margaret until she died.  She would approve of this walk, and would say in her Yorkshire accent, "Don't Fuss."

Would you like to sponsor me for this walk?  All sponsorship goes direct to Macmillan Cancer Charity, I don't see a penny of it but I DO get an enormous rush of saintly well being.  Follow the link here - 

Still spiritual.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/antonia-rolls?fbclid=IwAR1F6QBzYe3uSbDMZd_Kd4O3NSVtUwsPZ8XOuy4XpqortnS7aO7jlVcEzXk&utm_campaign=pfp-share&utm_conten


And if you would like to receive my newsletter, out twice a month, please subscribe here.  It is fun, informative and tells you what I am doing without bombarding you with my many achievements. (Joke).  

https://mailchi.mp/antoniarolls.co.uk/signup-for-news-of-events-and-sessions




Tuesday, 4 February 2020

I am going grey, goddammit, not into a nursing home



Such a youthful brown haired person. 
Part One

For years I pretended that my hair was dark brown.  How well you are looking, people would say to me, and how young.  Oh, I would say, surely not!  And inside I would feel smug.

This delighted me for a long time, and every six weeks I made appointments at the hairdressers to keep up the show.  Not a single grey hair, and a very clever mingling of high lights into the brown as I got older so that the original dark brown did not clash with my skin as I gently aged.  It did not occur to me that I could have grey hair, or white hair, and there was a wonderful disconnect between my age and hair colour, and that of my friends who were as old as me and their naturally grey and white hair.  That was them, and this was me.

Can I be like you, Miriam? x
There was a great deal invested in keeping my image going as an energetic, creative and youthful fifty eight year old.  When someone showed surprised that I dyed my hair, on the one hand I was surprised that they were surprised - they must surely realise that someone my age couldn't have no grey hairs at all, and on the other hand it affirmed my decision to be brown haired and full of youthful bloom.  I did not exactly articulate it like that, part of the deal was that I did not think too deeply about what I was doing, and it did not matter really, in the great scheme of things.  But I would not have liked the idea of keeping a youthful bloom, because that would have conflicted with me being happy with ageing, and not into the "being young and beautiful" thing.  After all, I do not wear make up at all (except for lipstick.  And later, eyebrow pencil when Eileen pointed out that my eyebrows had disappeared.)  So actually, already, I wasn't really the spring chicken I liked to think I was.

Then I turned fifty nine and I visited my friend Deb on her houseboat.  Deb greeted me in the hot August sunshine from the deck of her boat, happy and brown, with a head of glorious naturally sun bleached white hair.  I am older than Deb.  She looked utterly fabulous.  Damn, I thought, it is time.  I want to take off my brown hat and put on a white one.

And Deb didn't look old!  She just looked like Deb.  I was actually jealous.

Part Two

I began to look at my friends who had unashamedly grey and white hair.  I had not really noticed before, but each of them looked lovely and their hair colour was nothing to do with it.  These ladies, I thought, had it sussed all along.  They did not look young, but they did not look old either.  They looked like themselves, and I began to tot up the amount of money I would save by not going to have my hair wrapped in foils and thick brown gunk for a whole afternoon every six weeks.  Millions of pounds, I thought.  Millions.

(A small word here about my excellent hairdressers over the years.  They do a wonderful job, they have made me very happy and I salute their hairdressing skills.  They only did what I asked, and did it brilliantly.)

I am going grey!  I told my friendly psychic hairdresser, Craig.  I am going grey I told all my friends, and then, I waited.  I stared hard at the mirror, trying to imagine what I would look like as an old lady.

Back, mother. 
A long, slow five months later, there is only about two inches of white around my face and two inches of grey on the rest of my head.  The rest is still a jolly all-over brown.  If I put my fringe back, I am a different person.  Then, I am white haired.  If I take the hair clips out, remove the headband, I am brown again.  The grey growing out at my roots does not show too much, it is only the white hair around my forehead and temples that is so different. When  Psychic Craig finally cuts off the last of the brown, I will have to think about what look to go for now.  This is taking a huge amount of time, and I simply have to wait and let my hair grow out at its own pace which feels like an eighth of an inch every six years.

The problem is, when I pull back my fringe, I look like my mother.

This leads onto part three.


Part Three.

Don't make me into my mother.
I know.  You can hardly see it. 
And this is a very nice photo, you
can't see the lipstick on my teeth or
the nail varnish on my tights.

The psychological journey while growing out dyed hair and embracing the white and grey has been a surprise.  Nothing changes, I tell myself but actually, much does change.  In surrendering to my natural hair colour at the age of fifty nine I am bound to be confronted with my own ageing.  With this has come a re-evaluation of who I am.  There is a real sadness about parting with how I have looked for so many years, and letting go of the youthful bloom that a head of carefully maintained brown hair has given me.  In keeping the dye going, I was stalling the moment when I would have to recognise that I am older now. Waiting for the rest of my hair to grow out, I feel stuck between two identities.  I can still keep my brown hair near my face and look as I always have looked, until the wind blows it just a little bit and then the white come out.  Then I wonder if I look like someone who is trying to hide her real hair colour and not able to afford to cover it up.  Or the sort of person who smudges her lipstick onto her teeth and doesn't care and goes out with holes in her tights with bits of nail polish to stop the laddering.

Mum.
I am transitioning into a new version of myself.  When I look in the mirror with my hair taken back and all the white hair showing around my forehead and temples, with no lipstick or eyebrow pencil, I see my mother looking back at me.  Begone Mother! I say.  I want to be me! But there is a long slow re emerging of me, and I have no idea of what that will be.  And actually, my mother was a very chic, well dressed and beautiful old lady who had white wavy hair that looked like a Mr Whippy ice cream. She was known for it.
Grace Jones as me.

I will be sixty in August.  By then this slightly depressing growing out of my brown hair to my new white and grey hair will be done.  I am not my mother, but I do still look like her.  I do not have to buy navy jumpers and matching navy slacks with sensible shoes, I can continue to shop in Oxfam and go for the 1970 geography teacher look that I like so much.  I can continue to wear sparkly Indian type skirts and look like a gypsy.  Or can I? I have no idea of how I will actually look, so it is all a bit uncertain. I will just have to get through this and have fun at the other end.  I may choose to look like Grace Jones.
Part Four

I will go back to see Deb in August in the hot sun, on her boat, and let it all hang out.  I am sixty in August, and even if I go looking like Miriam Margolyes it won't matter.  Goddammit, I am going grey, not into a nursing home.  Move over mother, there's a revolution brewing.



The revolution.  Me, Mum and all my friends. 


Every two weeks my newsletter comes out, full of information about all the work -  painting, writing, support work and exhibitions - that I am doing.  It is informative and amusing, like me, and I would love for you to join us.  To subscribe, please go to 

https://mailchi.mp/antoniarolls.co.uk/signup-for-news-of-events-and-sessionsantonia.rolls1@btinternet.com .  

Many thanks, it will be great to connect with you.