Grandmothers and gardening


Wednesday 29 August 2012

The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
descending in the dark?

~ Wendell Berry

Both of my grandmothers were gardeners. Tulla, my father's mother, lived in a granny flat attached to the house where my family lived for 15 years before my parents rustled up enough of a deposit to buy a house of their own.  Tulla was out there every single day from the day I was born, and years and years after we had moved, right up until the time she went into a nursing home in her late eighties.  I think Wendell Berry's words would have resonated in Tulla's soul.  She was a bitter old thing in many ways, and there was more than one occasion where I was bewildered by her bizarre suspicion even of members of her own family at times.  But her garden was her solace and her live, silent companion.  I would pay good money to have one more taste of one of her meals, cooked with the produce that came fresh from her own planting.

As far as I'm concerned we should have let Tulla stay at home and continue gardening until she dropped dead right there on the spot, and then bury her right in the middle of one of her garden beds that was full of worms and dark, rich compost.

When I was born my mother's mum, Grandma, lived in Boronia with Grandpa on a double block.  Their veggie garden was the most badass veggie garden I've ever seen.  That's my auntie, Dawn, on the left there in this photo, with her famous legs.  Grandma is in the middle.  And that's my mummy on the right, carrying me.

That veggie garden was rows and rows.  It was such a commonplace thing 40 years ago.  Everybody grew their own veggies.  I have heard it said that these days there is less than half a week's supply of food in our supermarkets.  The intervening years have been very strange, and now we find it's an act of resistance and a wake-up from an eerie slumber to indulge in the subversive and tiny act of growing some of your own food.

The fatigue that has encroached and retreated in various degrees for over more than a decade has lifted a little recently, and on Sunday I pulled some weeds and lay down some newspaper and mulch in the veggie patch in preparation for some seedling planting next weekend.  I think in hindsight I may have overdid it, as there was a tearful meltdown in there as well, but I don't know I've overdid it until I've overdone it.  It's like being premenstrual for six straight months ... except for the times when I'm feeling fine.  Bizarre.

I think I'm on the right track with the pyroluria/heavy metal detox treatment.  I guess the meltdowns are not surprising when you consider that my body is ridding itself of a toxic cocktail it's been harbouring against its will for decades of high copper, antimony, beryllium, barium, cadmium, thallium ~ things I barely know how to spell let alone understand how I accumulated.

Although the cadmium I know - that's the legacy of 20 years of smoking those stupid cigarettes.  And yet even it is fascinating to realise that the low zinc levels I have obviously suffered from for decades may have contributed at least in part to why it was that I began smoking cigarettes - the cadmium in the cigarettes is a compensation for the effects of low zinc, and provides a grounding feeling to compensate for the spaciness caused by high copper.  Who woulda thunk? 

When I'm not having meltdowns and feeling that horrible familiar vulnerability when the world just crashes in like a tsunami and my body crashes down and I just can't cope, I'm starting to feel good again.  The hellish paranoia that has fogged up my body like my own personal cloud is beginning to go and I will never be able to quite put into words just how glad I am about that :)

In the last 10 years I've noticed a greater desire to begin gardening more, and growing more of my own food, but it's been something I haven't been able to put into much effect.  The gardening bug seems to be one that hits people as they grow older, especially women.  It hasn't been able to hit me yet, though I invite its invasion.  It's hit my auntie though, Tulla's daughter.  I never knew her to have a green thumb before but now, in the past several years, her garden has become a flourishing beauty full of variety, and she a member of her local gardening club.

The propensity towards gardening as you get older I think is a deepening into an understanding of and connection to your roots, both literally and figuratively.  I invite the gardening bug invasion.



Tuesday 28 August 2012

When you see how deep its tentacles reach, you fall apart. 

But that doesn't need to be the end of the story.  Because in the painful seeing of how deeply those tentacles have bitten right down into the skin of everything ~ turned us against each other and outsourced everything, including meaning ~ then, after that, comes the sunrise.  Then you begin to see how different it could be.  How invested with meaning the alternative would be.  How you would work harder than you do now, but it would be more enjoyable.  How you could begin to stop hating your neighbour, when they stop being your alienated competitor.

And then, once you see the alternative, you can't stop seeing it.  And it gives you hope. 

Apart from the bits of schmaltz here and there, this is a pretty good example of the beginnings of that.

The Trends of Time


Monday 27 August 2012

I wonder which corporate boardroom it was in which the first person standing in front of a whiteboard ever declared that they were "across" something.  Did they know that their hard work in getting "across" would become so quickly commonplace in the vernacular?  Would they have liked that thought?  Did it feel fresh, and conjure up a new picture in their mind's eye of what it is to deeply understand the significance of the current financial quarter's figures, and for a second they felt creative and that their job wasn't sickeningly stifling?  Perhaps ;)

And then the next day, when their fellow worker Jeremy went and visited clients, he used the term then himself.  It felt good.  It felt like a new way of describing.  And while Jeremy was doing his presentation, two other people listening in the room liked the way that sounded, and so they started using it.  And before long, the entire corporatespeaking world began to be so across everything that there was nothing left that they weren't across.  Until everything that lay underneath what they were across began to pine for fresh air and sunlight, like the weeds in the veggie patch that are now laying under a newly-laid layer of cardboard, newspaper and sugarcane mulch after yesterday's grace of extra energy.

And while we're here, what's the deal with that trend that's being going on for ages and shows no signs of wavering, where companies squash their name together, so it becomes AcmeWidgets, or WankyMarketing?  Where did that come from?  And what's it about?  Is it another manifestation of the desire of corporatism to be so across everything that a bit of space between two words starts feeling a little threatening?  :)

Trends are funny things, are they not?  Everything evolves and flows and changes.  What is today's up-to-the-moment hipness, a feather added to your social bow, a deposit into your cachet account, flips out on the other side to guffaws and "Look at what you're wearing!  What on earth were you thinking?" when the 10 year old photos come out.

There is something I find appealing in that balancing act :) The passing of time and the passing of trends feels like a grace.  It's not totally out of mean-spiritedness (although I do remember a comedian I once used to see, a particularly intellectual fellow, whose snide comments about carloads of marketing consultants going over cliffs has rather stayed with me ;)  What the passage of time feels like to me is that it's like time lays down a fine layer of gold dust over everything so that even our foibles and our climbing after what seems so important get covered over and fade into the background.  All that egoic silliness - and there seems to be quite a bit of that about in corporateland.  Concern about margarine figures.  It's why I never would have been able to gain admittance into that particular land :)

I'm Grateful That ...


Tuesday 21 August 2012

I'm grateful that it is sunny today, and that this morning/early afternoon involved driving in it, first to my naturopath, who gave me a massage and a chiropractic adjustment.  We looked at my latest hair analysis results and she said to me, "Once you get this pyroluria and copper thing sorted out, you're going to be flying."  I like to think that I have done so much groundwork in the past, working against the grain, that once I get these latest things sorted staying healthy will suddenly seem ridiculously easy in comparison (and hopefully less expensive.  iHerb has earned $300 off me in the past month).

I'm grateful that there is a road trip to Queensland looming up ahead, after uni is finished for the year.  I'm hoping in the meantime to learn to drive a manual car so that Pikelet is not the only driver.  I'm also hoping that we can drop in here for a visit on the way to Queensland.  He inspires me.  I like to think that one day me and Pikelet could move somewhere (maybe somewhere like here, and do something even very vaguely similar  The only downside to that is leaving where we are).

I'm grateful that the days are lengthening.

I'm grateful that I've climbed a bit of the spiritual mountain.  That sounds a bit wanky, but so do heaps of other things that are nevertheless true.  It's sort of given me hope while I've been whiling around in the lower depths of hell (not that we ever really believe that the heights exist when we're in the depths.  It's like it gets erased from the memory banks and there's just a tiny leftover fragment the size of a grain to remind us that life can be good.  It's as if they are two completely different frequencies, running tandem alongside each other, and when tuned into one it's very hard to believe that there can also be another.  Still, despite everything involved in living with ill health, or living in the current visionless and depressing slave system, I never ever give up on not letting go of the tiny remembrance, no matter how tiny it grows, that it doesn't need to be like this.

I am grateful that the very best and most inspiring examples of humanity are way closer to what our true essence is than the very worst of the fucked-up narcissistic bastardry we are privy to every.  single.  day.  I am grateful to see that inspiration in action, such as in this blog post by Kel where her art, and her words, and Ms Dickenson's, combined to make something awesome and resonant.  I am grateful when I remember that our brains are wired to cooperate.  It makes you wonder, in that case, why we are so primed to compete against each other every day.  Turn on your local cable TV channel and chances are you'll see drivel that relates to people competing so that one person can win and everyone else can lose.  Win/win works much better.  Our system and those pulling the strings may not understand that, or may not care.  But our hearts do.


Wednesday 15 August 2012

Wake up and it's that space again. Feeling these feelings that are so common to me, which have been so much a part of my experience of the last several decades. Sometimes for long stretches on the periphery, and then they return. When they have returned, I have thought that they were personality defects, flaws requiring psychoanalysing. To realise that they are biochemistry is like a reprieve I am still getting my head around.

Through the prism of those feelings I am trapped and enslaved. I project it out onto the world (where truly there is so much enslavement), but really, what it is that I am enslaved by is going on within my own body. But there is freedom. I feel it, when I'm not feeling like this. At those times it is like a fog which clears and I am back to being me again and it's as if this never happened. But then the fog closes in again, and sometimes I don't even realise.  I have been struggling against this particular fog for so very long.

I feel apologetic for the fact that I have woken up unhappy this morning. What chance do I have when on opening my eyes I'm already swimming in the stress space, with that metallic taste in my mouth?  But this too is myself. This has been myself for as long as I can remember, and it's been like something trailing around behind me, a stink, like a bunch of old sausages.

I don't like to write here when I am feeling bad. It feels totally self-indulgent. I feel like I always need to be perfectly upright, that to be down is a vulnerability that, added to the rest of the vulnerabilities I have been getting about with, feels like a straw floating down onto the back of a camel. Writing here when I feel bad is an imposition on a world which already has far too much ugly and far too little hope and far too little freedom.

In these spaces, the best thing isn't to try harder. The hardest thing is to try less.  It's very hard to resist trying harder when your mind is revved and agitated. But this morning it is filtering up to me, somehow, through the tiredness and the murk and the reeds from the bottom of the swamp, that trying harder is not good for my soul, that it will just make me feel more enslaved. That stopping and slowing down and going a different way can be a revolutionary act in my own mind. That if I have woken up into a bad day, that the different way is where freedom is, even if my inner moneymaker screams what about the bank balance, what about the bank balance.

Inside I have a three year old child who is furious that she is not omnipotent.

It has been so long since I have regularly meditated that now it feels like a dreamspace.

I have made myself available for a less work than usual today. Because today is a day I am struggling, and my body has decided that it won't let me sleep any longer and I am tired and enslaved. I don't seem to understand my limitations very well at all. The inner promptings come from a long way away. Up from the murk and through the reeds another part of me which sits miles aside from the daily grind tells me to stop. She points me in the direction of the desk where I have not done anything creative for literally weeks. I am tired and cold and everything feels nasty. Though it never feels like it at the time, it is the best time to return to that desk and muck around a bit. After the sauna. Remind myself that I'm free. 

Checking In


Friday 10 August 2012

There is something easy about staying in the moment when the current moment consists of ease, pleasure and enjoyment in everyday tasks, and where previous moments have involved simply having to endure as best as I can the current collection of moments, whilst trying to remember that it is not always going to be like this :)

I thought I'd better check in and say howdy to anyone who reads here who was wondering if I have put a gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger.  I have felt like it quite often over the past week, but would never have the guts to do such a thing no matter how bad I felt (well, at least I don't think so.  Perhaps if someone was sawing off my limbs, and if, for example, I had a cyanide tablet instead, I would probably in that case chew.  Luckily none of those things are happening and instead I am experiencing a much more beautiful reality.)

The past week, though feeling awful, I've still managed to work and study relatively hard.  In fact, I have begun to feel a little like Jack in his dull boyness.  And so it's very nice to be in the position of my two clients both suddenly going exceedingly quiet on a Friday afternoon, with the result that Susie looks very much like she's going to be having a three-day weekend.

Because if balance is the aim, I need one of them.  And in that weekend I am hoping to catch up with my cuz, and do some arty stuff ~ becuase it's been waaaay too long.  However, there is a fluey thing threatening the edges of my nose and my brain which has swamped my beloved's entirety, so plan B is lying around luxuriously ordering takeaway, dammit, and reading non-uni-related books and watching the latest Quickflix movie.

My Quickflix queue is so large that by the time I get movies delivered to me I have absolutely no memory of ordering them in the first place.  Often on my reading travels I will come across mentions of movies that I add to my queue.  And so last weekend I watched Rashomon, a 1950s Japanese movie which was quite good, melodramatics aside. But then sometimes I really don't know what I was thinking when I put something in the queue, which is why I scratched my head when I opened the latest envelope to see a somewhat schmaltzy looking thing with Robert Redford and - ahum - Jennifer Lopez called An Unfinished Life. Took me a while to realise that it's directed by Lasse Hallstrom.  I saw My Life as a Dog recently and really liked it, so obviously I have begun going down the Hallstrom list.  Of course, he directed one of my favourite movies of ever, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and so even if this turns out to be a pile of poo, it still wouldn't preclude me from adding even more of Lasse's movies to my list. (He also directed Chocolat and The Cider House Rules ... and ABBA The Movie ;)

In other news, at some point in the future The Big Issue is going to publish a vastly edited version of this post.  That's pretty nice, eh.  Persistence pays off.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Luz de Luna (Moonlighting) by Maribel Villamediana (CC)

The Two Sides of the Pyroluria Coin


Thursday 2 August 2012

What a strange and bipolar health fortnight.

This is the good side:

The Friday afternoon before last, I was sitting in bed in a last-ditch effort to try to study.  I'd failed dismally so far, sitting in front of the computer and trying to make sense of the assigned readings while being distracted every three and a half seconds by something other than the assigned readings.  Earlier in the day I had given in to tears in pure abject frustration.  No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't seem to focus on the words in front of me long enough for them to sink in.  I was already getting behind in my studies, and it was only week 2 of the trimester.

Then my partner came home with the envelope which contained the test results that said that I have a condition called pyroluria.  Even though I had strongly suspected it, it was still a surprise.  Pyroluria is a condition where the haemoglobin in the blood produces too much of a particular substance called kryptopyrroles.  This substance binds to vitamin B6 and the mineral zinc, and so when the body excretes the excess, it rather unfortunately takes those substances with it.  And so I find out that I am uber-deficient in those two things.  Unsurprisingly, both are used to treat ADHD.  Unsurprisingly, people with pyroluria can't handle stress.  That'll be me, sequestered away from the world for years on end while I try and deal with why my body is so fatigued, so depressed, so anxious, why I just can't bloody cope.  I think I have the answer.

And so slowly over the past two weeks I have built up my levels of B6 and zinc.  I am taking five times the daily recommended amount of B6, and I know it's still not enough (apparently the way to measure when you are having enough is regular dream recall.  Not even close to that yet).  And I am starting to notice a difference.  The B6 in the morning and the afternoon is giving me this lovely energy.  Oh, it's nothing normal people would be able to notice.  But for me, there is this new stability I am feeling in my body, an understanding that a piece that has been missing for a couple of decades has now been put in place.  I can only imagine this energy will continue increasing.  The zinc at night (three times the recommended daily dosage) is helping me sleep.  I am getting so tired at night some nights that I could go to sleep at 10 pm if I needed to.  I can count on one hand the success I have had in managing to get to sleep at 10 pm over the years.  It would be amazing if I could.

~ * ~

This is the bad side:

I have high levels of copper.  I first suspected it over seven months ago when I did a home heavy metals test.  The resulting symptoms when I tried treating the high copper were enough to convince me that (a) this is something of what schizophrenia feels like, and it's hell; and (b) though I was only a quarter of the way through the bottle that would help get rid of this excess metal from my body, this was as far as I was able to go with it.  There was something else that needed to give.  There was something missing which was making this attempt impossible.

Hence trying the test for pyroluria.  Hooray for intuition - I stand in awe at the powers of intuition I have developed about my own body, because I was right, and a handful of jigsaw puzzle pieces are starting to fit.  B6 and zinc both displace high copper levels in the body.  These levels have become high in the first place because of the lack of those two substances in circulation.  And so the blood, in its wisdom, noticing these high levels of copper circulating within it, began the task of secretion.  If it can't get rid of the copper in any other way, it will hide it away.  And so it does - in the liver, in the brain, in the lungs, in the kidneys.

And so now I have begun reinstalling B6 and zinc, my body is taking the opportunity to get rid of the copper, now that it finally has the chance.  And so out it comes, from where it's been hiding all these years, back into my bloodstream, and if I don't have a sauna, or shoot coffee up my arse (I never did make any pretensions to this blog post being romantic), then I begin to feel those hellish symptoms again.  Like yesterday, when I didn't have time for a sauna or to shoot coffee up me bum.  I am still trying to find workarounds for the emotional symptoms.  There are certain supplements which help in the detoxing process (and certain other ones I am taking, such as chlorella), but it's a process of working out what works best.

When I feel like this, I feel in hell.  Last night, my partner quietly but forcefully said to me, "I need you to stop talking now."  I hadn't realised that I was raving, but apparently I was.  But his comment came out of the blue, and I'm a fragile soul, and so it wouldn't have mattered how he said it, I still would have broken into 1037 pieces of glass.

Because it's such a weird dreamscape from here, when I am feeling like this.  The only way I can identify that what I am feeling is spilling over into the outside world is when feedback like this happens.  And then I think of other people I know who I suspect have high copper levels, and how they sometimes have a tendency to go on and on about certain topics until I'm exhausted.  And so suddenly I realised last night that that was me, and that was how I was being.

It makes me want to run away as if my hair is on fire and live in a hole at the bottom of a bridge until I get all this stuff sorted out.  It makes me never want to have to deal with another human being again.  That's how I feel when this stuff is running through my veins. Until I stop feeling like this - which could be any time now - and then I'm back to normal again.  Normal, hell, heaven - who the fuck knows what world Susie is going to experience next hour in the rollercoaster that is copper displacement?  Which nobody else in my world knows much about.  I'm really tired of having conditions that nobody else knows much about.  It's an extra slap in the face having to explain yourself to disbelieving people.  They should be comforting me, not me having to educate them.

But then "should" is a pointless weight to place on your shoulders in these times.

But it's just one more vulnerability to pile on top of the hell that already is dealing with this stuff.  But hey, at least I'm not like this full-time. Not like all of those poor bastards getting around out there with full-blown schizophrenia.  Not like the guy I used to see when I worked in the city.  He was the gentlest soul imaginable, a beautiful man, with no home and a dose of dealing with worse than this full-time.  God bless him.

The World Bank and the IMF are probably not particularly great choices of subject matter to be obsessing about lately.  But that's where my Medical Anthropology studies have been taking me the last couple of weeks.  Is there anything more frustrating and hellish than being able to clearly see the machinations of these psychos?  And to see how long we have put up with it when we don't need to?  And how many people are still asleep to it?  And how their policies affect the poorest of the poor?  And how awesome the world would be without their evil influence?

But like I said, probably not a great choice of subject matter when you're dealing with fluctuating levels of a substance that inclines you towards paranoia in the first place.  No.  Better to lay that one down for another week. Even though it's so hard to when I feel like this.  That's another gruesome fact - whenever I feel like this, the very things I should let lay low, I can't seem to let go of, and I gnaw at them like a dog at a thorny foot.

And so this is how things are for me lately.  Depending on what day you talk to me.  And on the bad days, it depends on what hour of the day you talk to me.  On the good days, everything is coming along beautifully and I can see this lovely vista on the horizon where life gets a whole lot easier, and I get more of it back.  These good and bad days are both the opposite sides of the same coin.  This is the hell side.  And while I say reminders to myself like "This too shall pass," it won't be a moment too soon when it all does.