Said I to my online dancing teacher: “I’ll join you once I have put my living room back together.”

“Oh,”said she, “Are you decorating?” Yes, and not in the sense that she meant it, even though she had once seen me dancing with a big emulsion brush in my hand (“improving the shining hour” as Isaac Watts said in 1715) during our Zoom session.

Yes, “multi-tasking” as I would ruefully own, Hands up any other multitaskers here today.)

The point is, I suffer from piles. Not the uncomfortable medical ailment of the rear-end (although that too, sometimes; too much information).

Piles as in:

I’ll leave that there, and I promise to finish it when I’ve just …

Or: I need to empty out this bag and put these groceries away after I’ve …

Or: I must label these seeds with where I found them before I forget …

Or: that intriguing parcel needs quarantining before I open …

Or: I can iron this dress/shirt while it’s still nicely damp and then …

September muddle and makeshift shrines at Dhruvaloka

Or: I’ll leave this six month-old birthday card out to remind me that …

Or: I must put those summer things in the attic so I’ll just leave them in the middle of the hall to trip over, until I get the loft ladder out of the pile of …

Brain Dump

Admit to your own piles – physical, mental, metaphorical – on an unfinished page of your Thoughtbook.

Even if you are the tidiest, most systematic, best organised person on this beautiful, messy, muddled-up Earth.

Splatter out your muddles, as messily as you like. Secretly admit to your piles, even as they suffer landslips and career into other piles, and fall on the floor/behing the bed// down the loo…

Just scribbling (in your worst handwrititng, in your scrappiest ThoughtBook), as a Muddled BrainSprawl.

And if this exercise fills you with abhorrence:

“I wouldn’t dream of doing anything as messy as that!”…

then dream on, and have a fantasy nightmare instead. Go on, I dare you!

My friend Hilary, who is one of the best organised people I know (from the outside – or would you say differently , Hil?) pointed this out to me from my favourite daily (“occasionally” for me) The Guardian. About the antidote to “to-do lists”.

So today I suggest (to myself, and to you if you are up for this congratulatory challenge) that – in a change from our usual schedule – we really appreciate our positive achievements in the last hour, day, month, year, lifetime (you get to choose) by filling in an appreciation practice form, like this:

Today I am glad that in the last hour I ……………

Today I am glad that in the last hour I ……………

you choose how many times

Today I am glad that in any past day I ……………

Today I am glad that in the month of September 2020 I ……………

Today I am glad that in the year 20— ……………

Today I am glad that in this lifetime I ……………

I am going to put my “while-in-the-messy-piles” Gladness List at the end, under Further Resources, dated and signed. Perhaps you may like to share one line of yours, or more, in the Comments, so other people can read of your Gladnesses?

I always like to hear from you, though I may not respond at once.

Too busy sorting out my Piles… And writing things like this, for the Highland Buddhist Sangha to which I have been welcomed this year.

A lifeline on a messy day

(on being in a muddle, and surviving)

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!”

The musically inclined may be able to remind me from which musical this is a quote.

As it hums through my dashing-in-a-hurry-to-a-deadline mind, a picture rushes into my mind of a be-whiskered White Rabbit, be-jacketed and with no trousis on (ooooh!) agitatedly looking at his pocket-watch.

In a 20th century version of Lewis Carroll (who was really called Charles, and a mathematician like my son).

I too am at a deadline this morning, and have scurried into my default negative mode of anxious tizzy, which can so easily escalate into tension; rigidity of my upper arms (Ouch – now what’s that about?); and a sort of frightened paralysis (where the fingers tremble inertly on the keyboard, the lower back fixates on pain and spasm, and “Oh, here we are again …”).

My therapist taught me a trick about catching myself just at the moment of Descent to The Pit (and I won’t descend into describing that).

It involves my wiser, calmer nature coming alongside the muddled distraught one and saying, with infinite compassion:

“Stop! Do you want to go down into The Pit?”

At which I have to chooose, and to say:

No. I choose not to go down into The Pit.

I choose to do something that is more life-enhancing.

“Well done Kathy! Well done!”

“What can that something more life-enhancing be?”

Something is chosen. Like taking a sigh, a stretch, a “3-minute Breathing Space“.
Followed by a self-compassionate intention,
a self-compassionate action.

Which (in my case) may involve writing in my spare ThoughtBook (for I have mislaid my Winnie-the-Pooh one that I won in the Blue Highlands Rescue auction);

moving my limbs, my neck, my facial expressions in meditative dance; walking in nature;

“just sitting” with a safe candle;

or appreciation practice.

I wonder in what way you can extend to yourself a compassionate lifeline, today?

Kathy McVittie 30 September 2020

Golden Threadwork

Scan through what you have read and written so far, looking for golden phrases, or find one in the list below.

Use any of these as prompts, to lead you into a piece of creative writing, expressive poetry whether formal or chaotic, or reveries within the muddle (or splendid organisation) of your unruly brain.

Remember, you get to choose what is welcome in the sanctuary of your mind.

  • When I read a book called ‘Praying from the Mess of Things’ I was ….
  • Muddled up in the parachute strings were …
  • In the general confusion she managed to …
  • Maintaining the compost heap was his preferred …
  • Out of that chaotic morning emerged …
  • The Cambrian explosion of …
  • Assorted biscuits were always more …
  • Things being unequal, they …

Remember to sign and date your work, for well-organised retrieval on another occasion, when we may wish to Mine the ThoughtBooks.

Further resources

As promised here are my own gratefuls, as of 30 September 2020:

Today I am glad that in the last hour I had a very large cup of tea;

Today I am glad that in the last hour I had at least a banana for breakfast;

Today I am glad that in the last hour I remembered to take my morning dose of medicine, with the banana;

Today I am glad that last Monday 28 September I enjoyed a one-to-one writing our way whole session, outside, facing over an amazing valley, with wild pheasants chuckling nearby, and in view of the play of two dark horses and a pony, who had been rescued by my friend to this life of freedom and peace;

Trying on silly hats in a croft garden in Brora September 2020

Today I am glad that in the month of September 2020 I resumed my companioned writing-for-wellbeing sessions with real-life clients after a Lockdown gap;

Today I am glad that in the month of September 2020 I have re-engaged with friends from my secondary school, in a dynamic and burgeoning relationship over (ahem) “conferencing facilities”;

Today I am glad that in the year 2018, a time of great polarity for me, I was able to reach out – during the confinement of autumn – to those strangers who later were to play significant parts in my journey towards wellness;

Today I am glad that in this lifetime I have overcome sufficient odds to help me to gain admission into the Garden of EVEN.

“Ah me, I am undone” – reliving the Study Bedroom of Yoof.

As if we were shut out anyway, except by our own exclusion, on account of our aversion to our oddness, our messiness, our muddle.

Which are all part of our being human: flawed, approximate, and extraordinary. And we’re skilled at surviving, even thriving, in Mess and Muddle. From which creativity can emerge, unscathed.

Copyright (or copywrong) Kathy McVittie 30 September 2020