Clutter, clots, clogs and chaos.

The other day I read about a
workshop that explores sleep disorders and I toyed with going, not because I
have a sleep disorder but because I am curious about what it is that causes
some people to suffer sleeplessness hour after hour.
I decided against going.  For one thing I do not have the time to
spare, nor do I know the orientation of those who would be taking such a
workshop.  I fear too much emphasis
on behaviour and the superficial. 
Such an approach would drive me potty.  
Worst of although I fear attendance at such a workshop might
put the mozz on me and suddenly if I allowed myself to think too long about it I, too, might begin to suffer from insomnia. 
Sleep is such a fragile thing.  It comes in waves.
We looked after our grandsons last
night while their parents went out to dinner and drinks for one of our other
daughters’ birthdays, the first outing my daughter and her husband have been
alone together since the youngest was born eleven months ago.  It comes into my mind now thinking
about sleep.
Around 9.30 pm I pushed my nearly
one year old grandson’s pram up and down the corridor willing him off to sleep.  Up and down the corridor I pushed his
pram but he was determined to stay awake. 
Eventually he could not keep his eyes open and dropped off.   The pram’s movement was
irresistible.
My mind does not want to work this
morning.  I tell it to think about
sleep but it is too cluttered with thoughts of the day ahead.  All the jobs I have to deal with,
including a visit to my mother early, because we are having a dinner for the
same daughter’s birthday – multiple celebrations for a birthday that fell last
week while she was away.
 See how cryptic I can be, avoiding the use of personal names
so as to avoid identifying those who might not want to be identified. 
My heads a clutter with ideas, and
prohibitions.  The other day I
heard about the three Cs of anxiety, ‘clutter, clots and clogs’.  You can read about it here.  They relate  to hoarding, but my interest is in its less pathological manifestations,
as something I can get into not only literally – if you could see the junk room in
my house you’d know what I mean – but metaphorically, in my head.
The idea is that a degree of
clutter is part of the stuff of life. We need stuff to live and in a family of
several folks, young and old, you will find lots of things, in use, put aside, open
and available at the same time.  
The kitchen table is covered in condiments, open school books,
unfinished sewing, shopping lists and more besides.  A lived-in house. 
On the other hand, there are areas where the stuff gets piled and is not used
regularly nor removed, though it could be if someone put their mind to it. 
An example of clutter that borders on chaos.  I’m the one in white.  
The
stuff that stays for months on end becomes a clot.   And finally, there are the areas in the house that can
spread one clot after another into a serious clog, serious to the point that
activities must be curtailed because there is no room to move. 
You can’t even open your doors for
the stuff.  You can’t use your
table or bench top for the stuff.  In other words you can’t live. 
I once visited the house of the
artist Mirka Mora and her place was like that, only her stuff was mostly art
works, great gorgeous canvases and stuff she used as still life, dolls and taxidermic
animals and post cards.  An amazing
place and some how it did not offend me in the same way a really cluttered,
clotted, clogged place might. 
When I was young and worked as a
social worker I went from time to time to visit an elderly man who lived alone
in Carnegie. The local doctor had referred him because he was concerned about
this man’s life style.  The man
refused to throw anything out.  The
hall way was lined with newspapers in piles and empty tin cans.  There was not an open space in the entire
house.  I could only interview him
in his bedroom and I was reluctant to sit on the one chair available beside his
bed because it too was piled with newspapers. 
He must be dead by now, and I
wonder what happened to his stuff. 
Did it wind up somewhere on a tip, the useful and the junk all blended
together into one unusable mass?  

Keeping secrets

My mantra: write without expectation of any
outcome.  Write into the
unknown.  
Grade two, 1960, seven years old, pen in hand.
And then I go into a
non-fiction class where the facilitator reckons that anyone who can’t write five
sentences on what her book is about is in trouble, or words to that
effect.  I challenged the
notion.  
We are talking about
different processes and perhaps even different times in the life of a
book.  I may well still be at the
beginning whereas she’s talking about the end phase when the book needs to come
together. 
I stood over the cats this morning
as the boy tried to pinch the last of his sister’s food before he had decided
to leave.  He’s a real standover
merchant and so I stood over him, ordering him out of the house until his
sister had finished.
I told the non-fiction writer that
I love to write.  That was a
mistake.  Besides it is not true,
not entirely true.  I write because
I need to write, because not to write would leave me feeling as if my life has
no purpose or meaning.  
I write to
find that meaning and to make sense of my life, but that is not something I
love, not really.  It’s more like
something I am compelled to do, for the pleasure it gives – and indeed it gives
me pleasure – and also for the need.
Hilary Mantel in her essay, ‘Diary’ writes about her experience of hospitalisation for surgery that went
wrong.  She describes her
hallucinations, her ‘hallies’ as she calls them, as if they are real and no
doubt they were real to her when they appeared to her mid fever and pain.  But towards the end of her essay she
talks about her reservations about this writing.  As if she is fearful of being included among the so-called ‘confessional writers’, those who, to use her words, ‘chase their own ambulances’. 
Is that what it’s all about, this
writing of mine?  
I asked a friend
to define the expression.  ‘Chasing
your own ambulance’, as he understands it, means to go looking for an accident,
to write about your trauma, as if to bear witness, thereby encouraging the
reader also to bear witness.  
While
the word ‘confessional’, despite its religious connotations of admitting to
sin, can also mean the notion of disclosing something that has hitherto
remained hidden.  It has perhaps a
more neutral tone, though the notion of sharing secrets to me does not.
For some reason secrets carry the
weight of sin.  Why else keep
something secret unless somewhere along the road there is some sense that
someone has done wrong?  That
someone has something to hide and that something stirs up anxiety or fear.  
We don’t keep unimportant things secret. 
Keeping things secret takes an
effort, which is not to say there aren’t many things we might repress, seemingly
without effort.  They slip out of consciousness and only crop up when the
pressures they exert for exposure rise to the surface.  How did Freud term it? ‘the return of the repressed.’  But that’s not the same as deliberately keeping a secret, one that refuses to leave your consciousness.  
I have long tried to understand my
inability to learn while I was first at university from eighteen years of age
till I was twenty two and went out into the world to take on my first job.  Certainly numbers had me
flummoxed.  
In places they talk of a
female phobia of mathematics and perhaps of the sciences generally, that goes back in
time.  Certainly in my family my father’s
conviction that girls were good for nothing apart from housework, child rearing and
sexual comfort held sway.  
Despite this, my
mother read all her life.  She
still does.  But in my father’s
mind her reading was limited to trashy romance or pot boilers and religious
propaganda like the Catholic Tribune and the Advocate.
The education system within the
Catholic schools I attended both in my primary years and at secondary level
added to this fantasy of female inferiority.  
The focus was on
memory, which we polished with rote learning. Understanding why people might
behave as they do, as explored through English literature and history books,  came through a thick layer of religious conviction. 
For instance, Attila the Hun was a barbarian
who sought to overthrow the Christians. We read and rote learned the lives of
the saints and were encouraged to practice with sincerity and devotion, and an eye to our
calling as dedicated to others.  
If
we were not called to follow God as priests and nuns, then marriage was
the only option, marriage to another Catholic with whom we would bring up
several children, as did my mother, but she had married a convert.  Mixed marriages were then frowned upon. 
There was a system of rules in place that barred deeper explorations of the
meaning of things and I did not come to understand the meaning of the words, concepts and theories until much later in life.  
There were facts and religious beliefs, faith and goodness.  Others practised evil and wrong doing. 
We should not and that was all.  A black and white world, and one which I now prefer to avoid, especially in my writing, other than to describe it.