Useless

Hello, my name is Rachel and I am a useless blogger.

nametag

When I was little, the single most frustrating retort from my mother was when she would close my most recent, incessant argument with:

“JUST. BECAUSE.”

I needed a reason why I couldn’t chew gum/ wear a t-shirt with ‘easy’ emblazoned across the chest/ yell at my maths teacher (all true stories).  I needed reasons so I could keep arguing. So she would tighten the set of her jaw and shut up shop. Just. Because.  It’s taken being a mother myself to understand the value of the statement. It’s a full stop, a justification in and of itself. It’s enough, already. It’s when something needs simply to be accepted.

Back to this blogging malarky. It used to be that I would write a couple of posts a week, sometimes more. Each around 800 words apiece. I’ve amassed a large archive of words. But more often than not these days, I’m so busy in my offline world that my online world makes much less noise than it used to.

When I started blogging, I studiously ticked the boxes on the ‘backend’ of my blog. I fretted over my ‘niche’ and tried to quantify my ‘audience’. I ran giveaways, launched ‘series’, built awareness for my illness community and cared more about ‘SEO optimisation’ in my writing. But these days, I care most about writing. Just writing. If you are reading this I am so genuinely grateful, because I haven’t done much to bring you here or keep you here. I’m just being me, writing my story, in post-sized-bites.  I guess, technically, that makes me a useless blogger, a tag I am really proud to wear.  Because blogging is about much more than all that useful stuff. Blogging is about self-expression, about reflection and learning. For me, it’s a record of my thinking, an archive of my journey.

Veggiemama (Stacey) from Melbourne started it all. You can read here about how the useless-blogger-groundswell began, that my mate from I Give You the Verbs (Annette) turned into a movement, complete with it’s own hashtag (#uselessblogger), that ate the cat that swallowed the fly. I don’t know why we swallowed the fly, perhaps we’ll die!

It’s a grand thing to know that my blog can continue, ‘useless’ as it may be. It’s a bit extravagant maybe, blogging anyway, blogging about all of my life, not just one part of it. Writing even when what I have to say comes out and I think ‘yawn, who is going to want to read this anyway?’. But I have great faith that my readers, like you, have free will, and will only read on if you want to. If you don’t that’s fine with me too. There are blogs that I have lost interest in over the years. If you are here it’s because you want to be. I like hanging out with you! Thanks for staying.

This whole ‘useless blogging’ thing resonated with me. The blogs I love most are the ‘useless’ ones. The ones people write for the love of blogging, not the pursuit of followers.  The ones that bare it all, that lay their hearts out on the screen, full of authentic power. The vulnerability, the mundane, the beautiful normality of life. And sometimes, too, the pain.  I love these blogs because their authors care most about being real. It’s much more interesting to me than a pretty splash page, a new header image, or fancy widgets. Those things all have their own merits, but it’s content that floats my bloggy boat.

Do you blog?  Are you a ‘useless blogger’ too?
Join the revolution!  Be a daredevil and blog,

just. because.

Dwelling in Uncertainty

I’ve been reading Margaret Wheatley’s book, ‘Perseverance’.

This book is a call to action; a calm reassurance, the wisdom of elders, food for the soul.  I urge you to read it, too. Particularly if you are a person with chronic illness. In her trademark gracious manner, Margaret Wheatley tackles the notion of perseverance. She asks “How is it that some people persevere..?”

Much better to dwell in uncertainty,

So much of her work strikes at the heart of me. So it was difficult for me to pick one excerpt to share with you.  But I eventually chose this one; I hope that this one will resonate with you, too.

“Some people despair about the darkening direction of the world today. Others are excited by the possibilities for creativity and new ways of living they see emerging out of the darkness.

Rather than thinking one perspective is preferable to the other, let’s notice that both are somewhat dangerous.  Either position, optimism or pessimism, keeps us from fully engaging with the complexity of this time.  If we see only troubles, or only opportunities, in both cases we are blinded by our need for certainty, our need to know what’s going on, to figure out so we can be useful.

Certainty is a very effective way of defending ourselves from the irresolvable nature of life.  If we’re certain, we don’t have to immerse ourselves in the strange puzzling paradoxes that always characterise a time of upheaval:

  • The potential for new beginnings born from the loss of treasured pasts
  • The grief of dreams dying with the exhilaration of what now might be,
  • The impotence and rage of failed ideals and the power of new aspirations,
  • The horrors inflicted on so many innocents that call us to greater compassion.

The challenge is to refuse to categorise ourselves.  We don’t have to take sides or define ourselves as either optimists or pessimists.  Much better to dwell in uncertainty, hold the paradoxes, live in the complexities and contradictions without needing them to resolve.

This is what uncertainty feels like and it’s a very healthy place to dwell”
-Margaret Wheatley, Perseverance pp.15

My poor little brain has been doing some stretching exercises since I started the Be.Leadership Programme. I feel like I am finally feeding my mind something really nourishing, and it is growing.  But like any travels into new domains, it is a time of uncertainty.  The ground I thought was solid, the terrain I knew… it is shifting into topography I’ve never traversed before. For instance, I am no longer sure that I know myself. But I feel more authentically ‘me’ than I have ever felt before.  They are two contradictory ideas that currently co-exist for me. It’s strange, this place.

And yet, some of this is familiar to me. There have been pre-emptive echoes in my writing.  Ideas about suffering and insight.  About anger and acceptance.  About finding an entirely new purpose and direction for my life. These ideas reverberate across my synapses.  Something is ‘becoming’ in my brain, I just don’t have the broad sweep, the bird’s eye view, to map it yet.  My mind-sight is gathering information and piecing it all together. And my soul watches as the slow picture shifts into focus.  I am dwelling in the uncertainty and letting it be what it is.

Something,

almost,

not quite,

nearly…

For a girl who prefers absolutes and is quick to assess things in definitive bytes, it’s an odd place to dwell.

How are you at ‘dwelling in uncertainty’?
Do you prefer to know exactly what you know, or are you happy to step out into not knowing?
Do you agree with Margaret Wheatley, that it is “Much better to dwell in uncertainty, hold the paradoxes, live in the complexities and contradictions without needing them to resolve”?

 

 

…and Climb

Ko te pae tawhiti whaia kia tata.Ko te(1)

I am engaged in reframing identity post morbidity.  That’s the technical term for when you have to accept your sick self after a diagnosis.  Getting used to the new you.  I feel like illness has been gradually wrapping me up in a chrysalis, restricting my movement, constricting my experiences. But who I am is still there.

I think of that girl who defined herself by the things she did.

She danced, drank with abandon to usher in her dutch courage. She enjoyed philosophical discussions, standing around with other smokers, blowing out puffs of smoke with a thoughtful squint to her eyes. She was a good-times-girl with a tendency to sudden sadness, a seeker of fun and a girl on the run.  A subversive rebel. A smarty pants with long blonde hair and an attitude.

She did other things too.  Travelled, worked, studied, excelled.

I feel conceited writing that, even in the third person. But it is true, regardless of how awkward it feels to write it.
And all of the things I did were proof to me of who I was, what I stood for, my standards, my skills, my talents, my way of doing things. So what to do now?  Now that I don’t do much of anything? Who am I now?  Am I really still me, wrapped up in a chrysalis? Am I really constrained from being me?  Does it change the sort of person I am?

No.

Only the way I express it.  Does it change my goals?  Well, yes.  It makes them further away. But it makes them simpler too.

These days, I can’t give myself over to latin rhythms anymore, spinning round the dance floor, part of an energy exchange, lost in the force of motion, moved by the music and the slightest touch of my partners hand. How do you dance without smiling? How do you smile, without dancing? I felt such freedom in that movement, my hair swinging out behind me, weightless and turning and pulling back into the hold. Such a beautiful feeling. Rhythm and connection.  Music. I can still  listen to that music and touch on the sweet-spot. My memories of dance.  I can close my eyes and feel it again.  The air, moving against my hair, my obliques, twisting and turning.  My calves, taut and quick. Me, in heels, skirts and sexy strappy tops.  The warmth of bodies moving beside mine. The slip of the dance floor under my feet. Can I use those memories to help me find myself again?  Is it finding these words that takes me there?

Nor can I indulge in my professional passion of teaching.  Preparing my classroom for the first day of school… the smell of brand new stationery and the energy of potential; just waiting to spring from the air into works of art, words of heart, thoughts and epiphanies.  Kids finding their moment of understanding, seeing the possibilities and running with it.  I can still look through those photos of my first classroom, my first ‘kids’.  See the pock marked desks, the spelling lists and the self portraits, framed against a bright blue cardboard sky.  The book boxes, chair bags.  The smell of pencil shavings and old bananas, smelly shoes and whiteboard cleaner.  The joy of my own desk, my own resources, everything to hand and in it’s place. The clear eyed faces I would know so well, gazing up at me, waiting to begin.  Can I use the memory of teaching to help me learn something new about myself?  Learning requires you to know that you don’t know it all yet, to question, to risk new ideas.

I can’t do things like I used to.  It’s time for a new idea.

I am the person who did those things.  That dancer; who let herself be moved by the rhythm.  So I know how to bend and sway.  How to roll with the ebbs and flows. I am the teacher; I know how to think, communicate, to ask questions.
My goals have not gone away, I just need to do things differently, find new ways to travel through time.  I am flexible, I can work it out. Word it out. I am, who I am.

The chrysalis is falling away.  I needed it to hold me tight so I could grow my wings for flight.  Not dancing, not teaching, not doing. But winging my way into a new kind of being.

Ko te pae tawhiti whaia kia tata.
Ko te pae tata whakamaua kia tina -Tihei Mauriora