Monday, 18 May 2009

Swamplands of the Soul, Infinity and Revenge

I’ve been living in a daze but I think I may finally be starting to wake up. I had a fallout with a friend just before the weekend and it triggered a surprising response in me. I realised, very suddenly and painfully, that I’d been projecting a huge amount of my deeper ‘stuff’ onto her. She was carrying all the tough, dark, difficult parts of me: the depression, the anxiety, the loneliness, the fear of rejection and frequent feelings of despair and worthlessness. She also held all the more interesting parts too: the intellectual enquiry, the spirituality, the psychology, mythology, poetry, music and art. While she was there, doing all the work, I was able to hide away and numb myself with a frenzy of social networking, of Spider Solitaire and other distractions. Foolish me.

So over the weekend I turned off the computer and made time to start a bit of work on my self, on my soul. A small start, for sure, but a valuable one. I pulled an armchair into a corner by the window, where I could look out and watch the wisteria blowing in the wind; where I could see the exclamation marks of day-glo azaleas amidst the green on green. I played Nick Drake, Ray Lamontagne, Davy Spillane, Sean Tyrrell and Conor Keane. I re-read James Hollis’s amazing book Swamplands of the Soul and started re-reading another of his books, The Middle Passage.
In the last ten years since I had James (like many mothers, I suspect) I’ve ignored my soul. I’ve abased it, abused it and neglected it. No wonder it is sore. No wonder my body is causing me pain. When one neglects the soul, the body reacts too and flinches and cowers from the abuse.

Jung said that ‘the goal of life is not happiness but meaning’. James Hollis reaffirms this and states that:

‘There is no sunlit meadow, no restful bower of easy sleep; there are rather swamplands of the soul where nature, our nature, intends that we live a good part of the journey, and from whence many of the most meaningful moment of our lives will derive. It is in the swamplands where soul is fashioned and forged, where we encounter not only the gravitas of life, but its purpose, its dignity and its greatest meaning.’

So yes, I’m in a swamp but I think that is OK.

‘You think too deeply, that’s your problem,’ said Adrian with a sigh.
‘No. I don’t think deeply ENOUGH,’ said I with a grimace.
‘Well you worry too much. I don’t know anyone else who worries about infinity.’
He’s right. I do. I can make myself dizzy thinking about forever. My head spins (not literally, that would be wrong) when I try to trek out beyond the known universe. But doesn’t everyone do that?
‘Er, no.’

James, meanwhile, is worried about school. He came home looking shifty.
‘Did you hear?’
Hear what? About how he had been accidentally knocked into a puddle by a boy a year younger and had waited an hour to take his revenge stone cold - which entailed carefully placing all said boy’s sports kit in the showers? Er, yup, had had a call from the headmaster about that one.
I smiled ruefully and he smiled back.
‘I’ve got to write apology letters.’
‘Sounds reasonable.’
He took it on the chin and I confess I was impressed – not least that he actually wrote more than:

‘Dear X

I’m sorry.


Things are looking up. However this morning, over breakfast, he was low again.
‘I’m worried about what people will say. I’m worried about what the teachers will say.’
So we sat on the sofa and had a bit of a hug.
‘You know what? There is no point in worrying about something until it actually happens. So, I’d suggest you don’t even think about it – until it does (and it might even not). Makes sense?’
‘Sort of.’

It does make sense. So today I am going to try to follow my own advice. I’m going to watch the rain, trace the auras of the trees and watch the blackbird making another nest, this time in the jasmine. Infinity still worries the hell out of me, but I figure I’ve got plenty of time to worry about it….

btw, have posted the piece I wrote for YOU magazine on blogging as therapy on my other blog

Plus pieces on EMDR and whether detoxing is dangerous.... click the links to read - and please do comment as I'd love to hear what you think - whether you agree or disagree or have any new, better ideas. This is a new venture for me and I'm aiming to get up a whole ton of my old features as a resource, now that so many of my books are out of print.


Mum Gone Mad said...

Ok it might be just me, but I have spent a lot of time (wanted to say infinite but restrained myself) worrying about infinity! So actually it's not just you (or me), enjoyed your blog and now wondering when I might have time to attend to my soul :) luv Karen x

Exmoorjane said...

Mum gone Mad: that is reassuring. Thank you!

Shabby Chick said...

I have depression as well and I hate it. I can't say I think about infinity but I hate the person I become when I'm off medication and that's a sad thing.

Mel xxx

Reasons said...

I have been talking to a friend about her bouts of depression recently. She explained how she has to manage it. I also heard a play on radio 4 which was based on a blog written by someone with bi-polar. I've learned a bit. I think you've prescribed your own medicine here, sitting, being still. I hope it works well for you. It sounds like you have a good friend, I wouldn't bother with the social networking if I were you.

globeonmytable said...

I like to think about lovely infinity!

I reached a point where I was consoled by watching a bird on the wall doing various bird tasks. For me that was when I realised that if it was doing something because it chose to, not because it had to, then maybe I could too.

At the same time I could begin to literally distance myself from human comments such as "Sarah you can't possibly move from that house" or "Sarah you must do x" or indeed "I can't do x". I altered it to "I do not choose to do x".

Faith said...

I attend my soul by being my lovely garden and with my doves. I try not to think about infinity -what with Mummy slowly fading away, it's all too much. Adored James' sorry letter, it made me smile.

Exmoorjane said...

Shabby Chick: the black dog is a truly horrible beast...they say it's caused by repressing emotions..

Reasons to be Cheerful: sitting, being still, it helps a lot (I really mourn the loss of my art therapy studio but hey...)

Globe: I think that 'I choose' is hugely empowering - I just forget to do it a lot!

Faith: It's hard, isn't it? I'm so sorry about your Mum. As you know I've been in that place myself recently. jxx

family affairs said...

I am definitely in swampland....loved your article on blogging - might mention it in a post soon - is that OK? Or even post it on mine...thanks for your comment Lx

Exmoorjane said...

FA: so it's a a party swamp or yours? I'll bring the booze, you supply the mud pie.
Re blog piece - take it, use it, with my blessing....jx

Norma Murray said...

It is interesting that you should write about how so many mothers ignore their 'soul'. I've just had a similar converstion with a friend about her daughter.
My friend said,
'Em is so busy with all the masks she wears, she has no time for who she really is.'
If it's any help we gradually grow our of it when the kids grow up.

rachel said...

That was good advice you gave to James; easy to forget sometimes when we compulsive worriers get our teeth into something that might never happen.

Interesting what you wrote about the soul....I've been thinking about all this social networking; it clearly works for lots of people, but often feels too superficial for me, flitting from encounter to encounter, and I feel depleted by it. Hence my dead Facebook page - I won't even attempt twitter.

Blogging, now, that's different; I agree with you that it really can be therapeutic. And sitting still...stillness is the door to so much that restores and heals us.
Take care. x

Milla said...

I did the infinity thing when I was about 17. you must be younger at heart than me.
That "have you heard?" or, because I've 2, the muttered, "She's heard..." or "she knows" is horribly familiar. What's amusing is watching it from afar, from a generation away and thinking, you dunderhead, of course I know!

Shabby Chick said...

I think you're right about repressed emotions, in my case I think it's anger and guilt. Weirdly hard for me to right about the whole thing considering I normally babble away about anything and everything. I admire you for talking about it :)

Mel xxx

Shabby Chick said...

Of course I meant write instead of right, oops! x

Carah Boden said...

J, I understand all of this, completely empathise, and totally agree (with you AND Jung!).

I am with Rachel too. Blogging is very therapeutic, but all the other stuff is exhausting. I treat it with great caution and only dip in when I'm feeling strong enough.

Funnily enough (that 'WEIRD' thing again!!) I've just been composing a post (not published yet, maybe later or tomorrow) which, although it perhaps didn't say so in as many words, was showing one of the ways I feed my soul. Moving up here to find relative peace and calm and be surrounded by beauty (I could do without the rain though!) was very necessary for me.

Have to go get children now, but will read those links, promise.

And thank you SOOO much for my lovely award. Will be hanging it up soon.

muddyboots said...

I have read your blog with great interest, thank you xx

Jane Le Galloudec said...

I would suggest counselling. For me sitting still would become wallowing in the mire, and infinity is soo overwhelming. Oh and I hate to say this, but when the children grow up ... your soul has been awol for so long - it doesnt just come back on its own ... and when you start working at getting it back they (the kids et al) are horrified! This life lark is really hard.

and1moremeans5 said...

award for you over at mine enjoy! x

Minnie said...

Is maith an scathan suil charad.
Slan go foill

Zoë said...

I used to worry about infinity a lot too, recent events have made me shorter sighted, and I'd just like to make it through the next 5 years.

You and I have talked about this on a few occasions, the roles we play, Mummy, Wife, Friend, Worker,and so often we leave nothing for Self. Being a bit selfish is good for the soul, go on, give yourself permission.


Maggie Christie said...

I found this very thought provoking Jane. I hadn't met the Jung quote before, but it makes a great deal of sense.

Saz said...

Thanks for dropping by AND for welcoming me..I have enjoyed this post and I too will return to read more..I do enjoy finding new likeminded souls!!

thanks again


Calico Kate said...

Really thoughful post Jane. Hope you make up with your friend. Falling out always leves a horrible feeling in my stomach. I can imagine how James felt I spent my entire school life thinking like that, not sure I have got over it.
Don't think it is just mums who feel like this, as I'm not one. However I do have a 'caring' role and in that one can loose ones self. I am learning that I o have to find time for 'me' in there somewhere.
Not easy so go slow but don't stop.

Mopsa said...

I've never thought about attending to my soul, and now I feel more shallow than a saucer! Perhaps it's something that just happens...pottering with the vegetables or the dogs or the multitude of monsoon drenched wildflowers out there right now. I like time alone. Is that it? Am I any closer?

Irish Eyes said...

There is an Irish word called uaigness [oo-ig-ness] and it means loneliness. It is the loneliness of the soul that hits us, and never more so than when we have suffered a loss. You, my friend, have had a huge loss and borne the trials you faced before loosing your Mum with trememdous bravery. There is no one on the Coo who would disagree with that I know.

You did right to sit and listen to your soul, our inner self, the "thing" that, ultimately, I feel, guides us through life.

You are a terrific Mother yourself. You are indeed a far better Mother than you ever give yourself credit for. We can see it, we see it in your writing.

James and Adrian are blessed to have you in their lives and we are blessed to be able to share a part of that. Take time out to listen to the wind, hear the sounds of life around you for it is this which will heal your wounds and bring you tranquility. It is doing this that has brought me through the last year, taking time out just to sit by a window and let my mind open itself, my heart heal and my soul cherish me.

The support of friends and family is very special, but the support of those we may never have met, may never meet, or hope to meet one day here on the 'Coo is something very special in our lives.

Zoë said...

thinking about what IE said, another celtic concept that has always fascinated and been very relevant to me is that of Anam Cara. Something to think about anyway.

Unknown said...

I do the infinity thing too. If I catch someone on radio 4 going on about the size of the universe distant galaxies etc I have a real hissy fit. You're right about the mum thing too. Motherhood makes you into a worrier about everything and anything and everybody. You've got to take time to smell the roses and yes I know, easier said than done.

toady said...

Sorry Jane Bloggers doing strange things. Malcolm's comments are mine so sorry to dissappoint you, you haven't got a new admirer!

Ian Newbold said...

Your advice should be well heeded. And you could always try being shallow, works for me - sometimes.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Now this blog really spoke to me too jane, way more than Disney! I think mopsa is right that we can care for the soul by doing quiet things we love as well as by thinking about infinity. I love the distinction you have drawn between thinking and worrying. Sometimes we imagine we are thinking but in fact we are worrying, fretting, losing a sense and proportion. Your advice to james is great. Being in the moment is the highest achievement in my book. And I am with the others on some of the social networking stuff, can leave an odd emptiness in the soul. Not blogging, but certainly twittering, not enough living in that.
Look after yourself. xx


Dear Jane - this was a beautifully heartfelt blog, although sad it felt very honest and brave. I understand the difficulty in embracing that hidden, hard-to-get at bit of the soul and for what it's worth, I think you are doing just the right thing in sinking into your swamp right now (and, no - that wasn't meant to sound rude). Sometimes we have to go right into that difficult place to come through it. That quote from Jung is very powerful.

Your story about James reminded me very much of something my boy did recently. The worst thing for him was the thought that his friends would think badly of him and not want to be friends with him any more.

Take care of yourself.


Reasons said...

Oo-er penny just dropped. I have one of your books, the Holistic Therapy Book. I've been dipping into it for ages. It is really very good. Doh!

Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? said...

Hey Swampy, just want you to know I'm here.

I always try not to think about things until they happen.

I tried out worry yesterday and didn't sleep last night. I didn't like it!

I love the picture of the boys, nice to put faces to the names at last.

Annette Piper said...

You definitely have to feed your soul - particularly as a mother as those children, blessings that they are, drain the life out of you!!!

Sorrow said...

So you've owned up to F'n up..
What will you do next? will you make amends?
to yourself?
to her?
How will you begin a journey to self?
Thats what i would like to read...

Exmoorjane said...

Lampie: phew, very relieved to hear that...

Rachel: yes, I think you're right, it is a bit of a frantic flurry. Thank you.

Milla: just can't seem to grow out of this one...started at around that age but has never left- how did you get rid of it?

Shabby: anger for me too, definitely. Like to think I've dumped the guilt but probably not!

HotH: ah, we've clearly got a mind link going on. Still amazed how we ended up commenting on the same blog at the same time (and not one of the usuals either!)

Muddyboots: thank you - loved your post too.

B-J: would love to do counselling but very picky about the counsellor and can't find what I want out here sadly.

Amy: thank you - that is so kind.

Phidelm: come on bad Banshee - translation please!

Zoe: yes, can totally understand that. Know also how you understand all this so well.

Mags: I could happily quote Jung all day time we meet for scones.... ;)

FFF: your avatar makes me smile every time I see it - so please keep commenting. Mutual admiration society, darlin' - mwah!

Kate: yes, I hate falling out with people...such a people pleaser! Also wise words about slowing rather than stopping!

Mopsa: sounds like you're already there - without even thinking about it....lucky you!

Irish Eyes: bless you dear friend...that is such a very beautiful comment it had tears pouring down my face. I hadn't come across that word/concept before so a huge thank you for that too...

Zoe: yes, absolutely.....I need to re-read Thomas Moore too.

Malcolm/Toady: well, that made me laugh! I did think, wow, who's this Malcolm for a moment! You understand all this, know you do.
When are we going to have our real life meet-up eh?

SPD: Oh trust me, I can do shallow! How was the muffin-off? See?

EM: yes, I thought this would be more up your alley! Though the Disney experience has really made me think - a lot - and maybe even brought me to this place too.

LBD: Thank you. Knew you'd get it. yes, James was worried about what the others would say or think...poor sprats...

Cheerful: yup, hands up, that's one of mine.... Glad you liked it!

Laura: Love it. Swampy got to be better than Cynical....which sounds like something gynaecological. Think you're wise not to try otu the worrying any more.

Annette: you certainly do. btw, I am in awe at your jewellery - if anyone reads this far, DO check out her blog!!!

Sorrow: I'm hoping we're OK... re the soul, watch this space....though I can't promise it will all be deep and meaningful!

Minnie said...

HUUUUUUUU! Mais que fas tchinee ensuquee, malheur? Fa' pas monter le cristou, tcharafi - ne m'dis pas de cagades ou tou risques de prend' une rouste, tou, malheur!

DD's Diary said...

I try very hard not to think about infinity! Is that a bad thing? Eeek! Something else to worry about. Anyway, that was so beautifully written, Jane. Now have a mohito xxx

Big Blog Collection said...

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Exmoorjane said...

Phidelm: I'm still working on it....I'll be there in about a week I reckon!

DD: wish it had been a mojito! rather too much cheap fizz I fear...

Ivy said...

Jane I am one of the worrying club too. Maybe not about infinity but for infinite reasons. Yes,not thinking deep enough probably is the reason for all the worrying. Being able to solve other people's problems and not turning the same clear eye on one's own worries is an other.
Hope you could mend things with your friend.

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