It is rather ironic that I write endlessly about moderation. But in truth, I am fascinated by it.
Now, according to that fellow Aristotle, the Golden Middle Way is the desirable middle ground between two extremes; one being that of excess and the other, of deficiency.
As an example, he uses courage as a virtue, being in this case the Golden Middle Way. But if that courage is taken to excess, it would manifest as recklessness and, in deficiency, as cowardice!
Ooooh I love these Ancient Greek philosophers with their faintly dodgy beards … they were a clever bunch of cookies.
So what is it that makes some people so able to maintain the ‘Golden Middle Way’ in their lives, and yet others follow the path of extremes? Is it simply self control, or are we born that way?
Why is it that I absolutely have to eat an entire packet of ginger biscuits in one sitting, whereas my lovely friends would only have one or two? Perhaps I’m overthinking this and I’m simply more hungry.
Ps. Exactly what is it that you have a lack of self control over? (Ahem! Nothing smutty if you please)
Pps. Sorry about the picture, I couldn’t find one of Aristotle, so this will have to suffice.
You are in a well. A deep, dark well with murky, warm water up to your thighs. If you look up, you can see a tiny chink of light, but it’s a long, long way away.
You are not alone down there in the well. There are many others. It is not frightening because it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. It almost feels quite comfortable, perhaps even safe.
Around the inner sides of the well are ladders, ropes and the occasional handle of all shapes and sizes. Some are short, some long, some a little broken and some sturdy. But not one of them reaches the whole way up to the light at the very top.
And on every ladder and rope, there are people trying to climb up. There are young people, old people, black, white, rich and poor, all heaving themselves up, slipping down, knocking others off as they fall. It’s utter carnage. So it’s easier here at the bottom in the warm water, because anyway who really knows what dangers lurk up at the top? Life at the top can be a perilous place.
Each ladder, rope and handle represents a lifeline.
First you have to haul your heavy wet body out of the soft, warm water. It is now cold and uncomfortable and your body is heavy with all the water, but you try. You reach for the first lifeline.
The first ladder is marked ‘doctor‘. It is a solid, strong and quite easy to climb up but as you progress, the rungs become narrower. So you need to move one of your feet onto another ladder.
This one is labelled ‘exercise‘ and is a little creaky, but seems to be helping you up a little further. As someone falls beside you, you reach out to the rope with the name ‘social interaction‘ on it. You start to feel enthused and energised and begin to look for other ladders.
There are some little handles on the wall with the name ‘meditation’ on them. You grab them. And all the while you can hear a wonderful voice giving ‘group counselling‘ to encourage and teach you how to reach higher for the ladders.
Yoga, Pilates, medication, therapy, exercise, medication, reading, writing, fresh air, light, gardening, baking, cleaning, cycling, good food … There are dozens of them …
Yes, there are ladders all around, and they are there to be used. All of them. Because one alone will rarely work. Each of us is different and some ladders work better for some whilst different ropes work better for others.
But despite our individual differences and needs, there are two factors that unite us. And they are:
It’s up to us to WANT to climb out of the hole, and it’s up to us to DO the climbing.
Have you ever suffered from depression or anxiety and was there a trigger?
I am not in the same league as some of the gardeners here on WordPress. Frankly, I am in awe of their horticultural prowess.
I do however have a few meagre RHS qualifications and occasionally some Latin names find their way from the dusty crevices of the grey matter. Alas, give me houseplants and I’ll kill them. I will kill them by either forgetting about them or over–loving them.
I suspect historically that happened to a few relationships as well. (Obviously I didn’t actually kill the boyfriends, although I’d have liked to have thrown a few plates, vases and saucepans at some; but that might have made me seem a little unhinged, and I’m obviously not that.)
Yesterday however, and back to the gardening, I took the train from London and came (sans mon husband) to visit my parents-in-law. The reason: Obviously to enjoy some time with them, but also to help with their garden.
And garden I did!
Yes, it was chilly. Yes, my nose was a little sniffy and my ears turned attractively scarlet in the freezing cold, but it was glorious! And I thought I was a fair-weather gardener…
Fresh air and exercise has culminated in a tidy garden which has cleared out the cerebral cobwebs and frankly I crave for more. The sense of achievement has left me feeling unattractively smug and faintly pleased with myself. So if anyone wants to put me in my place or their garden needs sorting, you know where I am … well, sort of. Although, there’s limited internet here so if you’re horribly rude I won’t be able to retort quickly back or indeed give you my address. Bother! 😉
It appears to me that there are a plethora of budding authors here on WordPress.
Indeed, some already have beautifully bound books sitting on the shelves. Oh, how we long to be in your shoes! How we dream of being that far along the published line, with our designated writing rooms and a spouse who when visitors appear at the door, whisper that you are not to be disturbed as the genius, the ‘artiste’, is ‘at work’.
Said genius might perhaps be wafting around in a silk negligee and matching robe with a cigarette holder firmly clamped between glossy scarlet lips as she drops ash on the carpet whilst dictating to her loyal and dependable secretary. Of course if the author is of the male variety, one presumes that there would be less of the silk negligee and more of the smoking jacket and cigar, but I’m frightfully broad minded these days, and frankly, anything goes.
Some however have finished writing and are desperately and nervously waiting for the telephone to ring. Waiting in excruciating anticipation for their editors, agents or publishers to gush in delight, gasping with excitement at the marvellously original manuscript that you have sent. Cover to cover they have devoured your novel whilst rubbing their hands in glee at the potential film rights whilst already looking at potential Oscar winners to take the leading role. Oh! Oh! Oh!
And then, there are those of us (and I include myself in this grouping) who are daily, weekly or whenever-we-can-ly tap, tap, tapping away at our computers and iPads.
We live in a never-ending rollercoaster of hopeful optimism and desperate pessimism. We continue with life, with children, families, jobs and dreary mundane problems sucking out the very life within us; whilst in the deepest and dustiest crevices of our grey matter we secretly harbour and nurture a tiny and often fleeting glimmer of hope. A candle light so faint it can barely be seen. And so we continue to write, to throw our vulnerable selves, our mind and souls onto the pages for all to see, just in case, just in case …. we can succeed.
So carry on my friends! And if ever you wish to be seen in a flimsy and quite possibly highly flammable silk negligee whilst holding a cigarette, don’t forget that smoking is terribly bad for you, but frankly I may well come and join you. My tongue is, as ever, firmly lodged in my cheek, however, with all sincerity may I say, let us keep writing, keep working for as well as loving to write, we also love to read each others work. And one day, one day, that little glimmer of hope just might turn into a roaring flame.
Are you writing with a purpose in mind, for pleasure or a combination of the two? I won’t ask if you have a penchant for negligee, but … do tell …
I’ve got a stinking, sneezing, coughing cold and my husband has sent me to bed whilst muttering about ‘pestilence in the house’.
The room he complains is smelling of Olbas Oil, to which I respond, “It’s either that or I’ll not be able to breathe.” He appears to be contemplating the two options. He also keeps picking up tissues with thumb and forefinger and carrying them with an extended arm and a grimace to the bin whilst holding his breath. And when I sneeze, he asks if it’s strictly necessary.
Sympathy is not his forte. If I had the energy, I’d hit him with a shovel.
Of course the benefit to being in bed is that I can tap, tappety, tap away to you without any guilt for once, and dare I say it, I’m already feeling remarkably better. It’s either that or the fact that I’ve poured half the bottle of Olbas oil onto the bed so I can breathe and perhaps the paracetamol might be kicking in.
So I pathetically mop my fevered brow and wish that I looked like Meg Ryan with a cold in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ (a chick-flick gentlemen, so you’re forgiven if you haven’t seen it) instead of a pink-nosed snuffling, truffling little piglet. And downstairs the Colonel has the hoover going and I’m sure I can smell disinfectant, but it’s gone awfully cold. Dear God he’s opened all the windows. Oh well, the house will be clean, but let’s face it, Mother Teresa he is not … bless him!
I wonder if he’ll come to bed in a face mask … or perhaps the smell of the Olbas oil that I accidentally spilt on his side of the bed will send him shuffling off to the spare room … hmmm …
Sometimes I encounter and consequently ‘suffer’ from first world problems. These can be anything from a late train, an unexplained rattling in the car when it reaches 80 miles an hour, or running out of truffle oil; (no of course I don’t really keep truffle oil, I’m just exaggerating to make a point), and then yes, I have a little whinge.
My husband, known as The Colonel, simply looks at me over his glasses and raises an eyebrow. This usually renders me suitably chastised and I usually give a snort, tell him to ‘sod off’ in my typically eloquent manner and reduce my whinge to a “mutter-with-attitude”.
A fellow blogger (A Fractured Faith) wrote recently about the homeless and it rather spurred me on to do something useful and to press the pause button on this shoddy behaviour. So I hunted around the cupboard upstairs and emerged with:
. An old sleeping bag
. A military windproof, waterproof, everything-proof coat
. The softest, warmest blanket that I gave to my late mother and have been struggling to throw out
. Some toiletries in rather natty little airline bags (apologies for the revolting word …. Toiletries, Soiled, Moist and Toilet make me squirm. It’s the ‘oi’ thing. However, also Gusset and Lubrication. Enough said.)
Having lugged these items down to both the train station and High Street twice in the search for someone ‘in need’, and returning on my bicycle still fully laden, I was in danger of losing my inner Samaritan. But, third time lucky and I found a lovely chap with a dog who despite having everything that he needed, directed me to a gentleman who apparently did.
By now it was late afternoon, the sun had dipped beneath the trees and it was cold. Terribly cold. It was just starting to drizzle and the wind was picking up when I saw him. A narrow, hunched dark shape with the sleeves of his thin jacket pulled over his hands. He was shaking; not just his arms, but his entire body. He looked up at me and I smiled. Slowly and gently we began to chat. A thin, cold scrawny man with nothing to his name. No address, money, belongings or education.
His past was something of a horror story and the fact that he was still alive was either a miracle or testament to his courage.
I came away feeling humbled, ashamed and also angry at ‘the system’. He was so grateful for the pathetic bits and bobs that I gave him and so willing to talk to me, a silly middle aged, middle class woman with an expensive haircut and a propensity to buy expensive Christmas baubles. In the end, I felt grateful to this gentleman.
I am trying to help him further but suffice to say, it’s a minefield out there with a system with no money and too many people needing help. I shall continue but the longer I take, the colder the weather is getting.
I came home feeling not sanctimonious, pious or as though I had morphed into Mother Theresa, but just plain humbled.
Since then I have been making a conscious effort to (attempt to) restrain my irritations at unimportant first world issues and be grateful for what I have. Although having just re-read that I realise that I now sound like a prize knob so I’ll perhaps retract it, but it does make one think…
And finally, when I told my son about this and the horrors of being homeless (trying to educate my 20 year old son is I realise locking the stable door well and truly after the horse has bolted) he calmly informed me that the sleeping bag I had just given away was not my old one, but in fact belonged to him. Bugger. Thankfully he has a far nicer nature than me and just patted my shoulder. I think he muttered something about the onset of dementia but by then I was back in the cupboard again trying to work out if the military jacket I’d just handed out was not my other sons old CCF one, but in fact belonged to the Colonel … God I’m an arse.
Are there many homeless people in your neighbourhood?
Snuggling contentedly amongst my other issues, I have two rather deep seated and firmly ingrained problems that I have recently discovered are linked. This actually is rather good, because that means that I now have one rather than two. Please note the positive spin – I am if nothing else, eternally optimistic.
I am a people pleaser and find it incredibly hard to say no.
I am unfamiliar with the notion of ‘moderation’.
And the link is this: I can’t say no to others, or myself. I simply cannot say “No! Stop! That’s enough”.
I suspect I am a people pleaser because of a need to be loved. The problem with this, is that being a fairly needy individual but loathe to be a burden, where one feeling should in theory neutralise the other, it doesn’t; it simply makes me complicated.
So I do things for people that I don’t want to do, consequently get grumpy and do whatever it is with extremely bad grace.
And then my neediness kicks in. Imagine husband dearest trying desperately to leave for work in the morning, briefcase and coat in hand, with me attached to his ankles being dragged across the kitchen floor wailing, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” Not that he’s quite beating me with his umbrella to detach me but …. Admittedly I am exaggerating somewhat, but you get the gist.
As for moderation, this tends to happen when doing something that I enjoy, for example:
Certain types of exercise (ie cycling until my body starts shutting down)
Nibbling delicately on a biscuit (read: devouring a twin packet whilst locking myself in the larder),
Getting excited about an event (hyperventilating, shaking and nausea)
Again, I hope you get the gist.
There is simply no “Off” button. No bright little button with “Time to stop now Katie!” flashing on it. No sodding great beacon with a man holding a megaphone shouting “No, you stupid woman, just Nooooo!”
I can’t say No!
So the question is twofold:
1). How do I stop this impetuous, people pleasing doormattish behaviour, and
2). How do I dig deep enough in order to find my inner self control? (As in, where do you keep yours? Clearly close to hand, perhaps in a little pocket somewhere …. whereas I think I left mine at a childhood birthday party many decades ago.