the fight is over

I’ve finally decided to accept me just as I am, to go with the flow . . . water is a powerful force and I could do worse than to emulate its properties.

I have always wrestled with developing habits that would lead to some sort of self-improvement or help me towards a goal.   As a child I did not practise my music, do my homework or even remember to feed my guinea pigs on a regular basis nor do recall being encouraged to do so.  My children could well say the same and although I remember asking them if they had homework, I probably did it irregularly. As an adult there is very little I do regularly but that may have something to do with having had a working life regulated by appointment times and school bells.   Routine and I?  Well it’s always been a difficult relationship: I have a low threshold to boredom and for me, Routine and Boredom seem to have some sort unholy alliance.

My latest attempts to instill some discipline into my practice have all ended up as failures.  My attempts to place limitations on how many directions I go in . . . playing with encaustic medium almost didn’t happen and, right now, I’m really enjoying its possibilities.  And that’s it . . . words like limitations, discipline and routine give rise to a negative, almost visceral reaction however possibilities makes my Self sit up and smile and start to sing.

Why do I keep trying different things? In the hope that something will enthuse me so much that I fall in love with doing it and never look back?  That we, the activity and I, will be romantically entwined for life and . . . what?  We ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after?  Like that is ever going to happen!  And before you go telling me that it just doesn’t work that way with ANY passion whether it be something or someone, I know, I wasn’t born yesterday!   I’ve given up trying to limit myself or form beneficial habits.  I gave it a damn good try many times . . . giving up is just not the same as giving in.

There is much written about the positive effects of having a daily regimen and having a daily practice and I don’t discount it but it simply doesn’t work for everyone . . . and it’s not some virtue and I will become, by some miracle, a much better person on the inside if I somehow crack this Sisyphean task and do something ‘good for me’ on a daily basis.  Read it here now . . . I will never be that person, who when asked about the secret of their success will say, “I XYZ EVERY DAY AND HAVE DONE SO FOR X YEARS.”  The only thing I do almost every day is get up, use the bathroom, make coffee and take it back to bed and read (a book or online) and I have done that since I did my MEd which I completed in 2002 (working full-time I could only do the necessary reading between 5:30 and 7:30).  Now, I wake when I wake and shower when I shower . . . I don’t wear a watch.  And while I try to hand the car keys in the same place there is a second thing I do . . . I make all sorts of stuff.

For me, trying to set up a new habit opens the door to those voices that tells me I have no will-power or won’t-power, I’m hopeless.   The loudest voice of all, tells me positively screams at me that I’m lazy.  I then spend most of my energy digging a hole to fall into and then have to struggle to get out again.  No more.  No more will I set myself objectives that need to be done daily at a certain time.  I shall continue to be haphazard in my approach to what I do.  My weekly goals will continue but always have the rider “unless something more interesting turns up.”

Recently I decided I would draw every day, make marks if you will, the ‘authorities’ (and yes I know, I have ascribed that title to them . . .  they haven’t, however most of them are teachers so, to some extent, they have).  The most I ever managed to keep this up was for 10 days straight and then something happened and I never got back into it.  Maybe it was a visit from my grandhearts (who love to draw), a particularly stunning morning that demanded I go for a walk or perhaps I got waylaid in the workroom on my way to make coffee and didn’t get out of my pyjamas until 11:00.  Does it matter?   Did time stop?  Was there some cataclysm in some corner of the universe?  (And such is my level of spontaneity, it is now 12:15m and I have not showered nor had any breakfast. And don’t get me started on the difference between being impulsive and being spontaneous.)

For me, having to do something kills a lot of the pleasure . . . this probably means that deep down I’m a hedonist but that’s okay . . . I’m sure the world can cope with a few and might be the better for it.

By now you could be wondering what started all this ranting and rambling.  Yesterday on Face Book I read ‘Action opens the door.  Consistency keeps it open.”  You might nob in agreement and say that’s fine, that’s true, but for someone who will have the epitaph “She Analysed” on her gravestone, that isn’t good enough.  First I finished admiring the penmanship and use of watercolour and then, perhaps because it doomed me to failure, perhaps because I am a bit of a pedant around the edges, I found myself disagreeing with the word choice . . . big time.

Consistency (Oxford Dictionary)
consistent behaviour or treatment. “the consistency of measurement techniques”

synonyms:evenness, steadiness, stability, constancy, regularity, uniformity, equilibrium, unity, orderliness, lack of change, lack of deviation
Consistency was perhaps used with the idea of turning up, applying yourself on a regular basis but more and more I realise I can’t do that . . . it’s just not me.  I think perseverance is what keeps the door open . . . persevering thought the discomfort, extending to a point just a little out of reach, not giving up until you can stand back and know, deep inside, that you did well.    For me, consistency and development just don’t go together.

Maybe I’m splitting straws but in my mind the difference between consistency and perseverance is a bit like the difference between equality and equity.

Of course if it really is consistency that makes the difference between me just mucking about with art supplies and being an artist I’m really sunk.   Regardless of whether it does or not, I’m off to persevere in my making and mucking about.  My plastered forms are waxed and ready waiting for me to apply colour.   Next week I could be weaving, embroidering, making more charcoal, a book or perhaps even drawing or painting, miracles do happen . . . but  whatever I do, I’ll be making because that’s what I am . . . a maker (which is not too far from my childhood nickname of Mucker and that’s fine by me).

Plastered forms ready for waxing. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Plastered forms ready for waxing.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

And my mottos?  1, Necessity is the mother of invention and 2, Strike while the iron is hot . . . .and there a millions of power sockets in this world.

what no-one will tell you about ageing . . . a rant

I’ll tell you, you sweet taut 20 to 35-year-old who looks at older women with a self-satisfied or dismissive smirk and doesn’t countenance that such a thing will ever happen to you.  I’m not old but I am ageing so I know . . . I can share my experience.  And while this rant is mostly focussed on the body, because that’s likely where your focus is right now, the heart and mind and spirit are all affected.

No-one will tell you that hair will disappear from some parts of your body and appear in others.  The blessing is that you are now in need of glasses so you don’t notice it for the most part . . . that is, until you are out somewhere and you feel a hair on your chin or you spot it in the unforgiving light over a mirror in the women’s toilet.  You will swear to carry tweezers in your bag but you will forget.

No-one will tell you that the hairstyle you want can’t be had because the gray hairs have the most rebellious nature, almost a mind of their own dear little individual selves going off in there own direction as it pleases them, a texture defying any attempt to smooth or curl.  You want sleek as it was in your youth without working for it? HA!  And perhaps you will decide to brave it out and go natural (Why the hell should that be considered brave?) or maybe you will just develop a reaction, allergic or just distaste, and decide against pouring chemicals on your head with any regularity.  Or maybe you’ll continue because you’ll be judged by your graying hair.  Pathetic and small minded as those judges are, they may have control of your potential income.

Wrinkles?  Yes they happen, and the pores of your skin on your face are more visible, your grandchild will be fascinated by your saggy skin so let them touch it, but never, ever, ever place a mirror on a horizontal surface to clean it . . . not ever!  Enough said about skin because the changes are inevitable . . . and if your self-worth is tied to your youthful appearance it’s doomed.

No-one will tell you that fit as you may be, supple and you may be, your body will change shape even if your weight doesn’t . . . and sooner or later bits are going to ache if you sit still for too long.  My advice is to simply keep moving.

Strength diminishes unless your lifestyle remains the same and for most, it changes because we have so many labour-saving devices . . . I used to have a push mower, use a hand drill and now I’m thinking I might need a skill-saw.  No-one will tell you that sooner or later some lids on jars will not come off even if you employ all the tricks you know and you’ll be tempted to go and get your electric drill (I own two), and take to it with a vengeance because you’re damned if you’re going next door just so you can have artichoke hearts with your crackers and blue cheese and besides, it’s 2:00am and you can’t sleep!

Sleep is something no-one will discuss when it comes to ageing . . . when your body wants to sleep you will and it doesn’t matter a damn whether you want to or not.  When you want to sleep . . . that’s another story.  Maybe you will and maybe you won’t.  I sleep like a baby; I fall asleep quickly and wake up every few hours.  I’ve always thought ‘sleep like a baby’ was perhaps the most ridiculous saying ever.

Your feet . . . comes a time when not only do you see the sense in keeping your feet flat on the ground . . . you can’t wear heels anyway as you feet just won’t stand for it.  Personally I would like to be barefoot all the time, socks in the winter, jandals (thongs) in summer and my old favourite boots in winter (they’ll die soon and then I’ll bury them with full honours, bugle at dawn, flag at half mast).

No-one will tell you that inside your body things have changed drastically even if you have retained stunning good health.   For me, menopause was so long ago that it’s just like a bad dream.   You know, one of those nightmares where you wake up and the emotions just won’t let you go?  Your heart is thumping with fear or you’re so anxious that you’re almost frozen.  Well, twenty-um years later I still have a hot flush with coffee (I have a 3-a-day habit and I love the stuff strong and black, unsweetened) and red wine is drunk advisedly because I know how I will sleep . . . hot and restless.

Skipping . . . yes skipping.  There will come a time when you realise that what you did all the way to school and home again is just so damned exhausting!  When was the last time you attempted to skip?  DO IT!  DAILY!  In the privacy of your own home, or on a deserted beach which is my preference, if you must but do it!  Why? Because sooner or later you will lose that spring in your step.  Honestly, this phenomenon really happens, one day you jump down off something quite low and you realise the bounce didn’t happen.  It vanishes somehow, somewhere there are a lot of bounces waiting to be reclaimed . . . they were ignored and took off to find new owners.

No-one will tell you that you will become more sentimental, that little things will have the power to move you to tears and that the sound of young children laughing is the sweetest thing in the world.  No-one will tell you that as your body deteriorates and your thinking slows, even though your intellect remains intact (so don’t you dare think that because someone needs additional thinking time or forgetful they’re not as astute as ever!) your heart, your spirit, call it what you will, will enlarge and your capacity to love those near and dear will remain untouched.  You will regret that you didn’t call your parents and grandparents more often.

Now don’t get me wrong, even with the inevitable changes you will continue to love and honour your body as much as ever.  (You do, don’t you?  Something damned wrong if you don’t because it’s going to house you for a long time.)  You will still feel the thrill as a soft warm breeze caresses your skin, yes even that flabby stuff you used to call finely toned triceps, and appreciate where it can take you, and the skills it holds in its ancient muscle-memory.  You will continue to make demands on it, nurse it when its sick and curse it when it lets you down but mostly, you will love it.  It allows you to say I love you and to touch and cuddle and listen to music and laugh and cry and laugh some more.  Love it, better still, respect it . . . every tiny part of it.

So there you go you taut 20+ year-old.  And why has no-one told you?  Because you aren’t interested . . . yet.  You’re busy taking your youth for granted and perhaps feeling a tad superior to us ‘wrinklies’  however if you want to hear about your mind, how every time you forget something you wonder if there’s more to it that there was when you did that exact thing when you were 20 and question if it happens more often, well ask someone.  I’ll give you an honest answer if you ask but it’s purely from my perspective, no longtitudinal studies here, no polls, just my experience.

Now I think I must point out that today is a brilliant sunny summer day, birds chirping and all that, I’ve been for a walk and I’m about to water-blast the fence so I can paint it . . . I love my body but I’m tired of all the put-downs, some incredibly subtle, others blatant, and the elevation of youth as an ideal.  It’s fleeting . . . if you’re lucky.  Youth lasted a short time when I look back at it and I think I have about a thrid of my life to go still.

The fence behind these gorgeous blooms needs a coat of paint . . . and I needed and image for this post. Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

The fence behind these gorgeous blooms needs a coat of paint . . . and I needed and image for this post.
Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

Yes we have role models, mostly carefully made up affluent women who perhaps won’t leave the house unless they’re dripping with make-up and certainly styled for that photoshoot where the images will be cleverly photoshopped and airbrushed.   Let’s get ourselves our there, barefaced or with make-up doesn’t matter . . . let’s just get out there as we were in the 60s and be loud and proud feminists . . . our sons need it just as much as our daughters.

A little disclaimer here: my mother was still ‘getting old’ at 96, she was not allowed to work as a young woman, “Ladies don’t work!” was what she grew up with, but she owned a library, was a pattern-cutter in a knitwear factory, could mix concrete, swing a hammer, use a crowbar with devastating efficiency, and the first thing she did when she moved house at 95 was to plant beans and tomatoes.

why is it so difficult?

Well I know why . . . when I try to get rid of some of my ‘stuff’ especially when they are things I have tried to cull in the past, the emotional attachment starts to speak a lot louder than common sense.  Common sense says that “You haven’t laid eyes on it for years (in some cases), no-one else has any attachment to it so get rid of it!”  But then there is that little “ah” and a smile at a memory that happens which prevents me form putting it in the smaller of two piles.   The piles being ‘Keep’ and ‘Get-it-out-of-the-house-asap!’

The reason for this clearing out of ancient bits and pieces came about when I had to get everything out from under a bed to move it and empty a small bedside cabinet, previously my mother’s, to give to my grandheart.  And of course when you start, somehow other cupboards and beds start to yield up their bounty.

Some of it has taken up residence in my tiny office . . . it was tidy but now I can barely get in there and until I start cleaning that up  . . . oh take pity on me when I start!  Instead of “if in doubt, chuck it out!” it will be “I’ll keep this, it might come in handy!”

There's not going to be a whole lot of work happening here! Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

There’s not going to be a lot of work happening here!
Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

This grumpy pair are bound to come in handy don't you think? Perhaps I could put a use by date on them. Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

This argumentative pair are bound to come in handy don’t you think? Perhaps I could put a use by date on them.
Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

So there I am with an untidy pile of old tat all over the floor, tripping me up, stuff that I haven’t touched for years yet somehow I can’t part with much of it . . . and I’m not talking about resources for art or craft work!  So far I have managed to be fairly ruthless however there are other things that will sit in a box, and sit, and sit until some time way off in the future when space is more of an issue.  Things like: a card I discovered, from me to my mother that she kept (actually I’ve now decided to toss that); the little notebook she had less than a year before she died where, in her shaky 96 year-old handwriting, my address and phone number appears on every second as does her own; a letter, not dated, from years before where her writing was strong and purposeful. There is no getting rid of some things . . . it’s just too difficult.

I have jewellery, not good, from umpteen years ago, not worn for yonks . . . .that’s all going (unless I think some of the bits might be useful to make a wigwam for a goose’s brindle some time).  And can you tell me why did I keep the hideous Harry Potter-like spectacles I wore about 35 years ago? Furthermore, why didn’t anyone tell me they were so fugly?  These are the easy things, these and the brass bells and candlesticks from the 1970s.  Why did I keep them in the first place?

And after this lot is taken care of, after the office has been culled and organised, after I’ve dropped things off to the second-hand shop and made a trip to the tip . . . well then I have to start on the mementoes from 7 years of living overseas and travelling around the world.  I know I’ll feel great when it’s done but heaven forfend!  Save me from myself!

creating womanhood

I’ve had time off for frivolous behaviour with the grandhearts but now it’s back to some pleasurable work.  When I have time out, it gets me into my head and thinking overtime which is not always a bad thing.  This implies that sometimes it is but that topic is not the subject this post.

I was cruising Facebook and looking at all the lovely art and couldn’t help noticing all the pretty young female faces with model proportions in the work, vapid faces I thought, and for the most part exaggerated in their appealing features . . . big eyes, full lips, long flowing hair, a body that doesn’t reflect the norm.  Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I have nothing against these images as such and most are beautifully executed however it was the images that got me thinking about how women are represented in the media and how we accept and sometimes perpetuate  expectations and myths about womanhood.

As a child I thought I was something less, less that worthy and the measure of worth was masculinity.  My mother always said she should have been a career woman but was not allowed to work . . .  she grew up in a time when her parent believed that ‘ladies’ don’t work.   Strangely, I was one of the few children in my class who had a mother who did work, who had her own business.    This didn’t mean that she embraced gender equity she unconsciously perpetuated the gender stereotypes of her time.  Males ran everything and if a woman had managed to accumulate any power it was done by stealth or she was an exception.   My mother was an exception, she could swing a hammer alongside her carpenter brother and led me to believe that if a male could do it then so could I.

Before this turns into a treatise on the roles we are socialised into let me give you a couple of examples of how women are still put down and how we put ourselves down.

If a woman is strong and assertive she’s often described as a bitch.  I’m strong and assertive when I need to be but I don’t have enough nipples to be a bitch, although my very sweet-natured dog does.  Quinn McDonald wrote a post on her blog  recently entitled Words Worth Dumping where she talked about a couple of terms that de-value women and that confirmed for me that it’s about time we started protesting about their use and certainly stop using them ourselves.

A while back a blogger, I forget who, talked about her need to develop more courage and strength and ended by writing she was going to grow a set of balls . . . I was appalled!  Grow a backbone yes, but why balls?  Was her goal to be more masculine or to be a strong woman?  And believing that men have some superior source of inner strength is ludicrous!  I’m sure she doesn’t but she has, by her language, said that as a woman she isn’t as worthy as a man.  And no, I am definitely not anti-male, I love good men in the same way I love good women and what is more I raised a very good man.

As a child I hated being called a tomboy, a Jack of all trades, told that I should have been a boy.  And why was I?  I loved being outside, climbing trees, playing up on the hillsides near our house, messing around in the vegetable garden with my father, using carpentry tools . . . but I was not a boy nor did I aspire to be one so why did adults define me as some almost-boy?    Even then, as a quite young child I was aware that 1) language was powerful and 2) gender bias was not weighted in my favour!

And don’t insult elderly women by calling a dithering, ineffectual man an ‘old woman’ nor a boy who can’t throw a ball well that he throws like a girl, nor a sensitive young man a ‘girl’s blouse’ (I’ll accept that one is seldom heard these days but there’s bound to be a modern equivalent).  Have you seen this video?  It tells us that young girls believe in their strength but women collude with the lie.   “Throws like a girl” is a cultural bias, one women perpetuate against their own gender, and one that the MythBusters spent time disproving.

It is only by standing tall, learning to do things for yourself (I had a colleague who couldn’t even screw the inside of the french press back together when it worked itself loose because her husband “did that sort of thing” . . . that sort of thing?  Practical, basic, screwing a small part back together?  Give me strength!

So, my point.  Watch your tongue, listen to how you and others language your gender, be proud to be a woman (I am not a girl, I am a woman and woman friends, not girlfriends) and please, include mature faces, not the rich and famous cosmeticly enhanced but real, woman-next-door faces in your work.

And here’s a little reward for reading this far: a not-yet-complete free motion embroidery experiment.   I’d hate you to think I’ve only been walking the beach seething.

free motion embroidery - a not-yet-complete experiment.

free motion embroidery – a not-yet-complete experiment.