Fear Or Love?

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Did you know? I didn’t realise until last night. Let’s pretend this post was up yesterday, shall we?!

At its most primitive, most simplistic, mental health can be one of two states: fear or love. The two don’t tend to dwell harmoniously, one will push the other one out. Usually fear wins that battle. Love is an adult response, fear a childish one, and most of us are still little kids on the inside (whether we acknowledge it or not). Fear lingers on long after the reason for our fear has passed, it burrows deep into our psyche and takes control. From this position of power it takes over our decision making – we will find ourselves driven to certain courses of action with no clear idea why, or frozen in time, unable to make a move one way or another, again with no clear understanding of what is holding us back. Fear isolates, it makes us uneasy with other people, distrustful, suspicious. At its extreme, fear can inspire extreme behaviour that seems inexplicable to an outsider. Hatred, prejudice, anger and violence are almost always expressions of deep debilitating fear.

As long as fear has you in its grip, it leaves no place for love. Love is based on trust, which is a no-go area for fear. Fear makes you retreat inside yourself, it doesn’t permit reaching out and connecting with people. It closes your eyes to the beauty around you. It is like the eternal winter in Narnia, freezing out everything that is good and warm and beautiful and light.

But like any playground bully, fear is all bluster and show. In a face off, it is actually no match for love. Love is our very essence of being, and when we allow it to fight in our behalf, it is more than capable of dethroning fear. Love is immensely powerful, as are the other qualities it brings with it: hope, faith, peace, generosity, contentment, forgiveness. It gently turns your attention from inside to outside, it illuminates your surroundings and makes you see things, situations, people, from a new perspective. And it rubs off on others. Whatever the question, love is the answer.

So how do you get from one state – fear – to the other – love? I’m still working on that. I think to begin with, being aware of the power of them both, and being honest about which is running your life. Then, making a conscious decision that you want to push fear out and welcome love in. Looking for opportunities to show love to others, to be generous, compassionate, forgiving, trusting. Being gentle with yourself about why you feel fear, but firm about not allowing it to govern you any more. Having faith that opening up to life and love is the path to happiness and peace, instead of allowing fear to close you down and fool you into thinking that you will be protected that way. When you do feel the unreasonable tug of fear, taking a breath, and asking yourself why. Why am I afraid? What am I afraid of (usually not the immediate thing that has triggered the fear, usually something far deeper and more primitive, fear of failure, rejection, abandonment, vulnerability)? Has giving into this fear benefited me in the past? Is there any way that I can shine love into this situation, and give it a chance to drive the fear out?

Thomas Carlyle said, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge”.  What question will it answer for you today?

Shop Update 09.10.11

This week’s shop preview is now up! And here is the Flickr set.

Next week there will be no shop update as we are in France, so the next shop update after this week will be October 23rd. I think Tony must have been getting into the St. Tropez groove when he dyed this week’s yarn – there’s lots of lovely cheerful brights there, to ward off the winter blues!!

Announcing The Demise Of BookGirl

I’m trying to come to terms with a massive shift in myself lately. I’m still processing. I’ve got as far as acknowledging the truth of it, but not quite as far as calm acceptance.

I don’t like to read books any more.

Oh boy, passthepaperbag, would you?

This is the girl who would get through 10 library books in a week. This is the girl who filled half her luggage space with books when going on holiday This is the girl with the serious Amazon addiction. This is the girl with well over a thousand books in her teeny tiny cottage.

Here’s how it happened. When I was really really ill, earlier in the year, I couldn’t read. Nothing made sense, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t even choose what book to read. That beautiful, easy escape from reality was closed to me. For three months, or so, I didn’t read. Then, as my concentration started to improve, I began reading again, but only non fiction. Diaries, collections of letters, biography, that sort of thing. Not very enthusiastically, but I made myself. ‘Gotta get back to normal’, I told myself. But I still couldn’t concentrate enough to follow a plot, or remember who the various characters were, so fiction was out.

Once properly better, I tried fiction again. Nope. It wouldn’t stick. The characters still got muddled in my head, the situations didn’t ring true, I struggled through a book, and felt relief once it was over. ‘I must not be quite better yet,’ I thought. I gave it more time.

In the meantime, I stuck to non fiction. And at some point, I realised, this can’t be a concentration problem, because I don’t have any problem reading a book now. I zipped through one travel book in a matter of a few hours. I just don’t like fiction any more.

I think that it’s lost its magic. When I needed to step away from my reality the most, it didn’t work, the door was closed. The enchantment has gone. And in any case, I don’t want to escape reality any more. I did enough of that over the years, and it didn’t do me any good. Nowadays I’m working very hard to be present, to be in the moment, to fully experience life, instead of hiding away with my nose in a book. This makes me very nervous – it’s like walking on a tightrope without that safety net beneath you – but it’s what I need to do. I’m getting the hang of it.

In addition to all of the above, I don’t want to give the time to reading that I used to. I want to be doing, not reading. I want to be productive, creative. There are so many things I’ve interested in, so many projects I want to make, so many skills to learn. This is how I want to spend my leisure time.

So, the very little reading that I do now tends to be instructive. I’m working through the Self Coaching book I told you about last week. I have some modern quilt books on order. I dip into the occasional biography or diary (although rarely). And of course, I read lots online, tutorials, forums, blogs. The only fiction I get through is in the occasional audio book, which I can listen to while doing other things, and drift in and out of without really paying much attention to it. A soothing background noise. Mostly of books I have read many times in the past.

It’s all a bit strange and unsettling. But then, any kind of growth is an uncomfortable process, right? 

Bits & Bobs

My thoughts are very scattered today, too much so for a coherent blog post. I’m still trying to shake off this virus – it seems to be lodged in my chest at the moment. Ugh. Anyway. Here are some of the snippets from my world lately.

  • I finished Tony’s grey cable knit cardigan last week. IT FITS!! HE LOVES IT!!!! My first big success, after 4 attempts at pleasing him. Whew. I am never knitting with grey yarn again though. No sir. Photos coming soon. Of course, the weather has been too hot for him to wear it!
  • Now I’m cracking on with my Snowbird in Emily. Man, I love this yarn. I wish the order would hurry up and get here. I want everyone to feel the Emily love.
  • Also, I have been sewing. My first ever attempt at dress making! It’s going really really well. Everyone I talked to about my pattern choice was dubious about attempting godets as a beginner. Ha! I showed them. I sailed through. The worst moment was when, while trimming the seam edges with pinking shears yesterday, I cut right through one of the skirt panels. Gah. But I fixed it. Just got the zip and waistband and hem to do now. It’s looking good!!
  • Next on the planner: a quilt. We’ve decided to revamp our bedroom in the spring, with bright zingy colours, instead of the gentle shabby chic look we’ve got at the moment. So I’m getting a jump on it by starting a quilt now. Here’s the inspiration – one side will be the Stacked Coins design, but with wider white sashing, I think. I do love lots of white space in a quilt, especially a colourful one. The other side will be a solid cloth, either orange or bright turquoise, with one row of log cabin blocks, in coordinating fabric to the front. The solid cloth will also bind the quilt, I think. The fabric bundles are the ones I’ve selected, Moda Lollipop and Chrysalis. I also bought Moda It’s A Hoot, and I may use some of the fabrics from that too.

  • 12 days until we go to France! There will be a shop update this Sunday, then a week off, then one on Sunday October 23rd.
  • Best meal ever. Red cabbage, onion, apples, with red wine, vinegar, brown sugar, spices, in a lidded casserole, with sausages tucked in the top, and slow baked for 2-3 hours, served with fresh granary bread and horseradish sauce. Sooooooooooooooo good.
  • This Indian summer is all well and good, but I’m a little tired of the armies of insects that keep marching into our house. Roll on the first frost.