I’ve had a long break from writing because I’ve been hit with a rather bad dose of sciatic pain which has meant sleepless nights and some discombobulated days as a result. A while back I went to an all-day workshop with quite uncomfortable chairs and the result was that health-wise it really knocked me sideways.
However, in the intervening period I had an experience which I found provided rather a good lesson in coping with fibromyalgia and its effects.
I learned to say no!
Aha! Perhaps that’s one of the big lessons when we get fibromyalgia – learning to tune into our bodies, listen to what all our cells and bits of pieces tucked away under our skin feel like, and acting in harmony with our body rather than trying to run out lives strictly from our heads. And finding the inner strength to say “no” when we need to look after ourselves and not put everyone else first.
Okay, it’s a bit simplistic, I admit, as fibromyalgia is multi-faceted, acts differently in each individual and really is quite hard to pin down in terms of specific healing aspects. It seems to vary from person to person. But I was looking at a blog recently, written by a fibro sufferer, and it was like looking at myself many years ago: angry, furious at my body letting me down, straining against the bit to get active again, still over-doing things, railing against the world, refusing to listen to my body and to its message
I felt exhausted reading the blog and realised how far I’d come in working out how to co-exist with what I now consider a learning tool for my body.
I also created this piece of digital art to illustrate what fibromyalgia feels like: the blackness when you feel despair; the flashes of light which represent the chaos of this health challenge because you never know what it’s going to dish up next; the red which signifies the pain; the green which represents the peace you can sometimes feel with fibro; and the blue to signify the need to tune into your body and communicate with it. Because, as I said in my last post, trying to push through fibro is pretty damned useless, all that will happen is that you’ll be flat on your back and probably worse off than before.
All these things of course I’ve learned over 15-odd years of living with fibromyalgia. Nevertheless, I still get tempted into trying to do more than I can. A while back, I was asked to take part in a mind, body, spirit show in Kyrenia. The idea was to take my computer and printer along, create individual artwork for visitors, and do readings. I quite fancied doing this, but deep down I knew really it’s beyond me physically. Nevertheless, I’ve been pummeling my brain to get the pieces together – to be able to travel to the exhibition and set up, cope with leaving the four dogs alone for a long time in case they make a noise and upset the neighbours, worrying about whether we could handle the financial costs, and whether this was an appropriate step for me.
Truth to tell, as I said above, I knew deep within that I should say no. But I’m a Libran, I hate saying no when people ask me to do something. And if I’m really honest, the good old ego preened itself at being asked to take part and at the idea of going and creating art.
In the end, I decided to do a Tarot reading for myself. The spread was follows:
This reflected the fact that I felt a deep unease about taking part in the exhibition, that there were underlying features I felt were hidden, and I felt some sort of deception but was uncertain what it involved. In the event, I showed the card to my husband – he who scorns the Tarot – who said immediately: “You’re deceiving yourself about your ability to take part”. Ho-ho, spot on!
The next question: What would be the result of taking part? A: Five of Coins
Hmmm, pretty hard to read this one, eh? Difficulties, poverty, and ill-health.
Now the cynical among you may think the Tarot is a heap of old cobblers but – hang on! I repeated this reading three times, shuffling the cards each time, and waddyaknow? the same cards came out every time!
Message received, loud and clear. Don’t take part. Say no. Which I did and it was very hard. It was, however, made all the easier because I had a terrible night with sciatic pain, the day before I had to make a final decision, as if my body was waging guerilla warfare against my taking part in the expo. But having made the decision, I felt like a load had gone from my shoulders, I felt profoundly I’d made the right decision, and my body felt all the lighter and more cheerful for it.
So to wind up, the next day I drew another card: what is the result of my decision not to take part in the exhibition? And the result: The Wheel of Fortune. This is one of the very positive cards in the Tarot pack, and it’s part of the Major Arcana which signifies times of great significance or importance in your life. It means a fortunate turn in circumstances which I think was a great confirmation I’d made the right decision.
I don’t know the ins and outs of people who have fibromyalgia as I do. My own experience has been, however, that I have had to slow down. I cannot take life at top speed as I used to. I have to tune into my body to see what’s going on from day to day.
I appreciate people who kindly offer supportive advice – whether it’s nutritional or to suggest certain therapies. I do know I get fed up with people who make instant diagnoses of fibro, how you can get better and what the underlying causes are. It’s particularly difficult when you get someone into metaphysical analysis of illness who tell you all about your wrong thinking, your crappy attitude and how, if you think the right way, the fibro will disappear overnight.
I happen to know my own body now, I have tried various therapies which have improved my health and helped me cope better. Considering what I was like in Boonah, I am heaps better. But I know my own body, I know what it can and can’t handle, I happen to think illness and disease are very complex and sometimes they’re a mystery which can be frustrating as we live in a scientific society which wants logical answers and cures.
For me, most importantly, you need to decide what brings heart and soul into your life and live your life with passion. Passion doesn’t necessarily mean running around doing lots of things or being hyper-active. It means working out what really makes you happy in life, what creates ease for your body rather than disease, and what really lifts your heart rather than drags you down. And, of course, only you know the answer.
Nor does the answer drop into your hot little hands like manna from heaven. It takes time to work it all out and it’s why I’m really rather grateful to the Fibro Follies because working through all the challenges has finally led me to focus on digital art and the immense creative pleasure it brings my own heart and soul.
I make the above point about lessons taking a long time to learn because back in Boonah, I found it very, very hard not to be running around like a cut snake doing the things I loved: teaching, working with crystals, going to health expos or taking part in markets. And, of course, there was the huge question mark of my father living beside us even though I had no direct contact with him. I did have feedback via the terrific social worker who was helping Dad. But even so, he suckered her like he suckered so many people and it was hard to sit back and stay detached.
Finally we came to the conclusion that our time in Boonah was over. Bryan wanted to be closer to his family and I wanted to get away from Dad’s alcoholic antics. So we decided to return to the UK. I rang Dad’s social worker and told her what we’d decided. She told Dad we were thinking of returning to the UK and his response was: “They’re not going anywhere. They’re waiting for me to die to get my money”. So then she had to tell him we weren’t thinking about it, we had decided.
I think it must have been a hell of a shock for Dad as I’d always, in one way or another, been there for him. So one day I saw him on his verandah and half-waved, whereupon he waved back and obviously wanted some contact. So at Easter 2002, I went up to see him, the door was open but I refused to enter until he specifically invited me in. And when I’d sat down, my father was polite, respectful and obviously pleased to be back in contact.
Nevertheless, I refused to put my life on hold for my father as he was still boozing like the clappers, his house was filthy and he still was leading a chaotic lifestyle. So we put the house up for sale. It took a while but when it did sell, it was as if everything fell into place as the buyers were really pleasant and helpful. We sold for cash all the antique furniture I’d inherited from Dad when Mum died. This paid for the air fares to Perth and then to Manchester, in the north of England where Bryan’s relatives lived.
Leaving my father on his own was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It really broke my heart when we got up early in the morning we left and drove away. I couldn’t look at my dad’s house or our house and, when the jet took off from Brisbane Airport, I just cried my eyes out.
We flew back to Perth with Rosie and to spend time with our friends before leaving Australia for what we thought would be the last time. We kennelled Rosie just before we flew to Manchester as she had a week or so to wait for a flight back to the UK.
And on October 12th,2002, just after the Bali bombings, we walked down the gangway onto our flight to Manchester. As we walked towards the plane, I felt another great surge of grief and guilt that I was leaving my father on his own and saying goodbye to such good friends, and burst into tears. Bryan hugged me and said he’d be wondering when it would hit me. So as we taxied down the runway for our new life in the UK, my last view of Australia was blurred with tears, a hazy view very reminiscent of the view of Australia on the horizon as the cruise ship on which I arrived in this beloved country in 1972 sailed ever closer to Fremantle, the port of Perth in Western Australia.
I was reading an interview today with the director of the new movie Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron, and right at the end he said:
“I was unhappy, trying to fit the mould (of Hollywood). And I was desperate because I needed the money. I had my son back in Mexico and it took me a couple of years to realise that I have to do what I have to do, what I am. The funny thing is, when I started doing that, it’s when so many good things started happening for me!”
I spent a lot of my life being what I thought was acceptable to people and being deeply unhappy within myself without really realising why. When I finally dumped Ms Goodie-Two-Shoes for real in 1996 , I felt a sense of lightness and giddiness as if a big boulder had fallen off my back. As I’ve said, I started working with crystals, art, took up teaching, and dabbled a bit in astrology.
But it’s here in North Cyprus that the crystals and art have coalesced in surreal, digital art and I can now really understand what I’m supposed to be doing and what I have to do because the genie’s out of the bottle.
When I first met my husband, Bryan, he used to rave about Cyprus and the great time he’d had here as an army brat while his father served in North Africa, and when he himself served in the British Army in his late ‘teens. In Queensland, Bryan had a dream about Cyprus where he was walking in the streets of Famagusta with a white dove on his shoulder BUT the streets weren’t those of the Famagusta of his childhood, they were the streets of today. When I told my friend, Yvonne, about his dream, she reckoned my husband had left a piece of his spirit on this island, and I do believe that.
Quite frankly, at times I could quite cheerfully have nuked the island after listening to Bryan rave about it over the decades. So I couldn’t believe it, when we were discussing the idea of leaving Australia, when “Cyprus” popped out of my mouth and Bryan immediately said yes!
Here I have felt not a skerrick of artistic longing for conventional paint until canvas, which felt really odd, but I was quite bereft of any inspiration. Then I was fiddling with Photoshop and came across a great little gizmo called “liquefy”. You activate this and then you drag your mouse over photos and it swirls and melds the colours into a cauldron of flowing shapes and rainbows. Until then I’d only used Photoshop to tweak photos I’d taken of scenery, rocks, family, and so on. But with the discovery of the “liquefy” function the medium of digital art opened up for me which I’d always considered, well, not quite art. Not quite art, that is, until I realised that all the gizmos available for working with digital art allowed me to get all the images out of my head which had been whirling around and going nowhere fast.
Then I started working with the photos of crystals in my care and it all came together. The spirit energy I can sense in crystals, rocks and stones could be coaxed out with digital art. This past week too I’ve been doing a course on surreal art, learning to layer photos to create quite complex images. And I’m off and running. I can suddenly understand that everything I’ve experienced, all the places I’ve been have all been leading up to this time in my life when the surreal art which has been lurking within me can be released.
A while back the Merit Hotel, which is a bit to the right of us on the coast (we’re slightly set back from the sea) held fireworks displays on two successive nights. I stood and took photo after photo as the brilliant display lit the sky in front of us as we had a free, box seat for these displays. I’ve worked with the photos since, using Photoshop, but now I’ve learned to combine images to create a completely new one. This photo combines work I did on another piece of Munjina Rock in my crystal collection with a photo I took of a firework exploding during one of the Merit’s fireworks displays.
It’s an amazing feeling, huge bursts of creativity are pouring out from within me, as if a cork has been released from a champagne bottle and all the surreal bubbles are exploding into being.
While this is my story, I’d like to to take the time – in winding up – to urge you to walk on the creative wild side however it works for you. Creativity doesn’t need to mean art, music, but really what lights your heart and what your practice in your daily life which is you and no-one else.
I’ve just heard today that Lou Reed, who wrote the iconic song “Walk on the Wild Side” had died. And it strikes me that one of the problems we’re faced with today is that we’re always being encouraged to live in fear, to be confined by straitjackets, to forget our own wild nature. It’s never too late, as I’m proving. Don’t live a little life!
Here’s a link to Lou Reed and Walk on the Wild Side:
I veered off onto different areas for a while, basically because the various topics of recent posts seemed to pop up and need to be written at that time. So now I want to return to the way crystals, rocks and stones have stayed stuck to me, despite moving from Queensland to the UK in 2002, returning to Australia in 2004, moving four times thereafter, and then moving to North Cyprus in February 2012.
Just prior to leaving Boonah, Queensland, where we lived for eight years, I decided my time with crystals was pretty much over so sold quite a few to a friend. Alas and alack, however, the crystals had a different idea. I lived in Scotland for six months and made the mistake of visiting a mind, body, spirit fair in Aberdeen. And up popped the crystals again!
Just prior to our trip to the city from the small village where we were living near my step-daughter’s house, I had a dream about a crystal which was either indicolite or iolite. At one of the first stalls I visited, I asked if they had any indicolite – I’d found it on-line and it’s quite a rare, expensive stone. Lo and behold, the stall-holder had just one piece she hadn’t put out yet, and I bought it straight away, a small, beautifully-shaped polished stone. Indicolite is a rare, indigo-coloured form of tourmaline. It’s a beautiful colour and this stone has travelled with me back to Australia, to the three States where we lived – Western Australia, New South Wales (twice) and Victoria – and finally to North Cyprus.
I wandered further around the exhibition, turned a corner and there was a large, raw quartz natural wand almost flashing a light at me. When I held it, it fitted into my hand like a glove, it felt like I’d received an electric shock and I couldn’t put it down. That too is still in my crystal collection.
When we moved from Scotland to northern England, Nelson, to be precise, I finally got a computer and an internet connection. And THEN I discovered eBay and I was off and running with crystals again.
I found a lovely Iolite gemstone as a tiny pendant on the auction site, won it and have worn it on and off ever since. When we arrived in North Cyprus, I couldn’t find it anywhere and was really upset it was lost. Then I woke up in the middle of the night, suddenly thought to look for it, opened my jewelry case and there it was, right on top, looking at me, and I had been through that jewellery so many times before! I find when I wear this it really bumps up my psychic ability, but I wear it only when I feel it calls me.
Now of course, most normal people would think that talking of a crystal “calling me” is quite off the planet and, I have to be honest, I do wonder about this myself. I would think of a crystal, look on eBay and there would be just what I’d been thinking of, I’d enter the auction and win it. And I had an ethical way of working with crystal purchases on eBay. As long as there were no bids, I’d put in an offer. But if someone else had already bid, it was theirs. It has worked out well over the years as I’ve won crystals and rocks which were rare and at rock-bottom prices.
My husband got fed up with packages of rocks and crystals turning up regularly from eBay in the UK and the US, but it was on eBay in America that I really got more cluey about a huge range of rocks and crystals I’d never come across before. I did get ripped off once by someone who claimed to be selling special rocks from Africa which were basically a very common (and cheap!) mineral. One guy tried to gouge on postal prices so I told him to keep the polished quartz sphere I’d won, rather than fork out exorbitant postal costs. But mostly I was lucky in dealing with ethical eBay sellers.
And then I came across a crystal site on Yahoo Groups, run by a guy called Fabeku Fatunmise, which seemed like heaven to me. He wrote at length about the metaphysical qualities of rocks, stones and crystals. He gave a perspective of stones as spirits or earth elders, he offered a wide range of crystals which opened my eyes to rocks and stones I never knew existed, and it was right up my alley. I have never been interested in the composition of stones, only in how they communicate to me and attract me. Someone may come to visit, mention they’d like a stone, I get an image of the stone in my collection, and in most instances it’s the one the visitor needs or connects with. It quite often narks me that a favourite stone might appear in my mind and be the right one for that person, but I’ve learned to accept that I don’t own crystals, I caretake them, and they have their own view of who they wish to reside with.
Sometimes a stone may step forward which doesn’t fit the normal descriptions you get in the various crystal books circulating. I personally don’t like saying “what a crystal is for”. It’s far better for someone to browse, pick the stone that attracts them, and then tune in to see how they feel when they’re holding that stone elder. I teach intuitive crystal healing by getting workshop participants to work with energy in very simple exercises, then get them to hold stones with their eyes shut and see how they feel, then move on to choosing stones for others, with no regard to colours, chakras or whatever. It’s what you need on the day that counts, not what’s in a book with so-called hard and fast rules and regulations, as far as I’m concerned.
When we returned to Australia, with a far larger rock collection than when I left, nothing much happened as far as any new entries into my collection went, until we moved to Woodenbong, in far north New South Wales, on the border with Queensland. There I came across the joys of rock fairs where “rock hounds” – fossickers – turned up with all the stones they’d fossicked around the traps at really low prices. I was in seventh heaven at these fairs.
I added to my collection in Traralgon, Victoria, and also in Bowraville, New South Wales, so that quite a few boxes of crystals, rocks and stones were in our luggage when it shipped out to North Cyprus. I looked around my study recently and decided that not too many people have as many rocks, crystals and stones in their homes as I do.
In my next post, I intend to describe how I’ve come full circle – bringing my photography, art and crystal spirits together in a fusion of digital art. Enormous fun!