Links

I was totally about to start this as an email.. my brain is truly made of fluff…

I did a round up of random links recently and wanted to do another.  I don’t work and I spend a lot of time online, reading interesting things and often want to share them, so here we go:

Offline, I’m always reading about 50 books at once…

  • Jailbreaking the Goddess by Lasara Firefox Allen, which I am reading slowly and working with my house of helens with it
  • Attatched: The New Science of Adult Attachment by  Rachel Heller and Amir Levine
  • The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory by Dedeker Winston
  • The Elements of Psychosynthesis by Will Parfitt
  • If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
  • The Seasons by Nick Groom
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
  • Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (which I am reading really slowly because I don’t want to finish the series…)
  • The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M Auel

I’m always interested in what other people are reading so do let me know!

Advertisements

Spontaneity for the non spontaneous 

I have never been known for my spontaneity.  And it’s even harder to be spontaneous when you factor in the wheelchair and my health and needing someone with me for support.  There are so many factors which just make it more complicated.  So I tend to have a very planned out life.  If I want a day trip, I need to provide at least a months notice.  There is no waking up and thinking what a nice day it is and trundling off to the seaside.

Even though I am not a spontaneous person, it still bothers me that my life is so orchestrated.  I have to be home at set times for care, I can’t do anything without checking access etc etc.

Anyway, this isn’t going to be a long grumble.  Each week(ish), I’m drawing a tarot card and reflecting on it as the week passes and it’s helping me to deepen my understanding of the cards.

Last Monday I drew the Ace of Wands.  A card all about new beginnings, about adventure, about just going for things and excitement and, yes you guessed it, spontaneity.

I didn’t think about it much throughout the week, it was a busy week and I was tired.  Then I went to pull my card for the week today and as I did so I had a think about how the Ace of Wands showed up in my life over the last week.  And actually, in my own way, I have been spontaneous.

On Monday night I booked a tattoo for Wednesday afternoon.  This on the surface seems more spontaneous than it is – I had already been in contact with the artist, knew what I wanted etc. But I was expecting the time between booking and appointment to be at least a few weeks, not two days.  This spontaneous, ‘I’ll just see if he has space on the off chance and heck if my carer is up for a road trip’ paid off really well.  I have a gorgeous tattoo and I didn’t have to spend ages trying to coordinate everyone involved (me, tattoo place, carer with car who is willing to drive that far and care agency).

Whilst it wasn’t completely off the bat spontaneous, it was nice to do something that hadn’t been epic-ly planned weeks in advance.

My second encounter with sponteneity didn’t go so well…  I was planning on a trip to the museum on Monday but when my carer arrived it was fantastic weather and it seemed a shame to be inside.  So we went off to a wood for a walk.  We missed the turning (overgrown hedges hid the sign) and when we finally got somewhere we could turn around there was a sign to a national trust property.  We decided we’d go there instead.  When we arrived, we found out we were an hour before opening (who opens at 10.30?!) but no worries, there is a farm shop and cafe on site.  Which doesn’t open on Mondays.  So we turned around and went back to the woods.  Where I got bitten by something evil and my leg has swollen up and is red and angry and itchy!

So, my rambling is basically my realisation that I can be spontaneous.  I just have to plan.  Which sounds contradictory.  And it is to a certain extent.  I can’t just turn up somewhere and hope they have wheelchair access.  But what I can do is collect information as I go about my life and then, when I’m feeling spontaneous or it’s a nice day or whatever, I have the info to hand so I can check if it’s viable.  Like with my tattoo, I’d already done the leg work long before I booked the appointment.

How do other people balance spontaneity with the necessary need for planning?

The Relationship Escalator

I came across the phrase relationship escalator a while back and it really helped me reflect on how I think about relationships and how relationships factor into my life.

The relationship escalator is the belief that a relationship is not legitimate unless it is following the standard upward trajectory: dating >sex>exclusivity>moving in together>marriage>kids>’til death do us part. There is a deeply ingrained expectation that if a relationship is truly “serious”, it will automatically lead to these things.

-Dedeker Winston

I have found it such a helpful concept for self reflection and I hoping this blog post will also help me to solidify my own feelings and ideas and approaches to relationships.

I’ve never felt an urge to be engaged or married.  I am, despite what this blog might suggest, a fairly private person.  If I am in love with someone then to a certain extent that’s pretty much just about the two of us.  I have never yearned to stand up in front of people and declare my love.  So this instantly takes out two stages of the relationship escalator; engagement and marriage.

And I’m not going to have children so that’s a third stage removed.  And if we stick with the escalator metaphor, society starts to ask what the destination is.  If I’m not going to get married and I’m not going to have children then where is this fictional relationship going?  What is the point of it?

Add into this my decision that I will not share a bedroom with someone in the future (I need to be able to turn my audio book or kindle on any time of night and I toss and turn and go to the toilet about a million times, I make a terrible sleep time partner) and society starts to freak out.  What is the point?!  Where would any relationship go?!

My lack of interest in marriage, my inability to have children, my sexuality (bi) and my disability all make it considerably easier to get off the escalator.  I’ve removed three steps, I’m self aware about sex and relationships through years of coming to understand my sexuality and my disability means that a lot of people don’t see me as sexual.  For some people, I’m not even going to be able to get on the escalator (which is probably for the best, wheelchairs and escalators get messy…).

This is a bit scary in some sense but incredibly liberating at the same time.  I have a clean slate, free from some of society’s expectations, to create my own road map for my relationships.

For years I’ve been pondering monogamy and my personal feelings about how it fits with me.  There was a moment I remember very clearly. I was walking along a particular pavement and I was thinking about polyamory.  At that time, my thinking was that I can see that it would be good for some people but wasn’t for me.  At the time, jealousy, attachment issues and lack of self esteem all meant that I could not healthily enter into a relationship with more than one person.  At that time, I had assumed I would always feel that way.  This was a long time ago, pre disability, pre latest mental health breakdown, and things change.

At that point in my life, I was following the script which said that you had to find someone you wanted to be with all the time and they would meet all your needs and you’d live together happily ever after.  I knew I wasn’t looking for my other half – I was already whole and I was quite stubbornly vocal about the use of language which suggested otherwise.  And I wasn’t expecting a disney prince or princess to whisk me off my feet.  But I had still bought into the idea that the mystical person I would be in love with would be everything to me.  And that folks, is utter crap.

No one can be everything for someone else.  You have different friends for different reasons.  The friend you go wild with.  The friend who loves nothing better than a cup of tea and to watch a film on the sofa with you.  The friend who you pour your heart out to even though you haven’t seen each other in ages.  So why do we expect our romantic relationships to be different?

Whilst my imagination has drifted towards open relationships, it wasn’t until a year or two ago that I realised that this was actually an option.  So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and pondering and learning.  Whilst I feel like polyamory might well be the path for me, I want to know that even if I decide that monogamy is best for me that it is a conscious choice, not default behaviour.  Which is very much in line with my entire ethos.

A rather random roundup of links

I’ve been stumbling onto some interesting reading online recently and I wanted to share:

Have you read or written anything interesting recently?  Share the link below!

Seasons

Seasons are straightforward, yes?  We learn in school that there is spring, summer, autumn and winter and that they change as the earth moves around the sun.  Simple?

Nope… Otherwise why would I need a blog post about them?!  Seasons are not a static concept, they have changed through history and throughout the world.  For example, the ancient Egyptians had three seasons; winter, spring and summer.  These marked three important events in the year; the flood, the time of growth and the time of low water.  In some parts of the world today there are still only two seasons; wet and dry.

Le Rouge’s Grant Kalendrier from 1496 shows the four seasons we are familiar with but the titles he uses for each season shed some light on the focus for each.  Winter – the season of woodburning.  Spring – the season of flowers.  Summer – the season of harvest.  Autumn – the season of vintage.  From these images we get a real sense of the importance of seasons to our ancestors.  They were not arbitrary lines drawn in the year with little impact of our lives, these were the way they knew when to sow and gather certain foods and thus they were literally a matter of life and death.  Indeed, the word seasons apparently comes from the Latin serese, to sow.  The changing of the seasons was often accompanied by rituals and marked the importance of the earth and her gifts to the community.

From my own life as a farmer’s daughter, the changing seasons meant changes in how we spent our time.  Summer meant more jobs for us, it meant picking fruit, it meant going to country shows to sell strawberries and it meant very long days for my dad.  And as well as seasons, there are other markers in the year which were historically used.  For example, you don’t pick asparagus before St Georges day or after midsummer’s day.  After that, you would leave it to go to seed, thus providing you with a harvest next year.

Some Asian counties have six seasons which mark spring, summer and autumn but also early winter, late winter and monsoon or early and late autumn.

For indigenous Australians, the number of seasons varied from group to group depending on where in the country they were.  Some have two, wet and dry, but those people in more variable climates have more.  These seasons tell people when to move to another place, when the fruits of certain trees will be ripe, when the fish will be easy to catch, when to hunt certain animals and so on.  The stars which were visible at certain points of the year also mark the changing seasons, for example for the Pitjantjatjara the rising of the Pleiades at dawn marks the start of winter.

Other cultures, such as the North American Indians, also incorporated natural events into their calendar.  For example, seeing the ducks leave on their migration was a sign of winter coming.

Today, whilst a lot of us in the west live detached from seasons in the agricultural sense, they do still hold crucial information about the timing of events such as the hurricane season, the wildfire season and flood seasons.  I also find that trying to attune myself to the seasons helps ground me in time, helps me feel more rooted to where in the year we are.

To live in tune with the seasons can help to create a balanced life.  Most of us can’t always be “on”, be extroverted and be sociable all the time.  Equally, most of us don’t thrive well if we are always alone.  In this way, letting the seasons guide us, gives us time to be with people and time to be with ourselves.  I am reminded of the bear from the wild unknown animal spirit cards and her wisdom about having times of inwardness and outwardness, times of activity and times of rest.

“There is a perfect time for everything. If the tulip surfaces in heart of winter, the bitter winds won’t give her a chance.” – Rebecca Campbell

To mark the transition from one season to another makes us more aware of these changes, it makes us more attuned to them and the subtle differences that build on each other.  To celebrate the season which has left and to welcome the season that comes is to acknowledge the wonder in both.  Being more conscious of the changes has helped me to go with them, not to fight my urge to retreat when winter comes.  To embrace it and to allow myself time to do so means I am more restored when spring arrives rather than exhausted from battling against it.  And I know that as I slip into hibernation mode as the days grow dark that I will not be there forever, that when spring arrives, as it will, with it will come a time of activity.

Living with the seasons means embracing a cyclical life, one of balance and for me this means one of self care.  Our years are filled with seasons, but so too are our lives.  If the season you are in now is difficult, you know that it will pass.

All things pass

Autumn steals the summer’s warmth
Hibernation tugs at souls
Slowing into desolate months

All things pass

Skelton trees, bleak shadows of former selves
Finally, Orion, Greek hunter, pierces the dark
Pinprick beacons of hope

All things pass

Sunlight revives winter weary bones
Fresh, vibrant shoots burst through soil
A patchwork quilt of colour surrounds

All things pass

At last, sunrise to sunset stretches
Ahead with possibility and energy
Perseid meteors scatter short-lived nights

All things pass

I’d be really interested to know what marks the seasons for you and I am going to ponder this a bit as well.

The right to die?

Euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide are huge topics for one little blog post so this will not be in depth.  What I hope to do instead is share a few facts, figures, anecdotes, opinions and my own personal feelings on the matter.

This can be a very sensitive subject and whilst I invite comments on my blog, I would ask that you bear in mind that I, and other commenters, are people and we are entitled to our views on this and I’d ask that you use your words kindly.  Disagree but don’t fight.

For me, the key issue is the paradox of being physically disabled and mentally ill.  I have been suicidal many times in my life due to mental illness and obviously it is complicated but for me, suicide is a safety net, a way out if things get really bad.  If it wasn’t for my limitations due to my physical disability, I would still have the choice to kill myself.  Being physically unable to kill myself takes away an option I have always had.

Euthanasia does not exist in isolation, it is part of a spectrum around end of life issues:

  • Do Not Resucitate orders
  • Advanced Directives – documents written by the individual to make their wishes for care clear in the case that they are no longer able to speak for themselves
  • Withdrawing treatment
  • Refusing food and drink
  • Assisted suicide – self adminstration of doctor prescribed medication
  • Voluntary euthanasia – most usually an injection but the key is that it is directly carried out by a doctor
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia – where the patient’s consent is unavailable, illegal in all countries
  • Involuntary euthanasia – without asking consent or against the patient’s will, in most cases this is considered murder

For the purpose of ease of writing and reading I am using assisted dying to encompass assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.

Let’s start by looking at a few of the concerns around assisted dying.  Like abortion, the choice to die debate appears to threaten the existence of disabled people, seems to suggest a life with a disability is not worth living and ignores the social context around disability and illness.  There is also a concern that focus and money spent on assisted dying will be taken away from improving end of life care and those things which increase quality of life.

However, it is important that disability itself is not considered enough to qualify for assisted dying.  And this is clear in the legislation which currently exists.  Most of this focuses on unbearable suffering, terminal illness and incurable illness.  The concept of unbearable suffering is one in which the patient has to determine when that level is reached.  So whilst disabled people may chose assisted dying because of their disability, it is not enough to be disabled.  This is essential as part of any safeguarding criteria, as is patient consent.

Associated with this is the concern that if assisted dying is allowed then it will make it easier for legislation which allows for killing disabled babies or people with severe disabilities, that is to say non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia.  Evidence from Oregon, who’ve had access to assisted dying for over 20 years, shows that fears around slippery slopes and other risks are unfounded.

Another worry is pressure to “choose” assisted dying.  This does feel like a very relevant discussion point at this time when Trump is destroying medical care for many disabled people in America.  Without medical and social care and support, disabled people will suffer reduced quality of life and are also strongly receiving the message from the government that they are not valued citizens.  Internalised oppression and ideas about disability can also pressure people.  These might include feeling like a burden, feeling like you are financially draining your family and feeling like you can’t contribute to society.

I don’t really have a counter argument for that but I do think it must be part of any safeguarding procedures and it feels really important to gather evidence about the reasons why people choose assisted dying.  This is already the case in many parts of the world which allow this choice and it is imperative that this data is collated and reviewed and action taken if key social factors are identified as pressuring decisions.

Where assisted dying is legal, there are tight criteria around who is able to access these options and this is a crucial aspect of safeguarding when it comes to assisting a person to die.  These include a cooling off period, multiple medical practitioners, being able to stop at any point and there being a waiting period for those people who have just become ill or impaired.

As we saw with abortion, it is possible to advocate for assisted dying for those who wish to seek it whilst also valuing disabled people’s lives.

A key issue for me is around the option of assisted dying playing a role in prolonging people’s lives.  It’s not as contrary as it sounds!

Annie Lindsell, who challenged the law on voluntary euthanasia, explained that unless she had the reassurance of being given help to die, she would have to do so whilst she was still able without help.  Thus her life would be shortened.

By 2014, over 200 British people had made the journey to Switzerland to end their life.  This takes them away from family and friends, means they have to end their life earlier whilst they are still able to travel and there is a financial cost as well – the cost of the service as well as travel and accommodation.  For many people, this will not be an option they can afford.  This leaves them with three options; continuing to suffer, attempting suicide alone, attempting suicide with someone’s help.  The last two of these come with risks of unsuccessful suicide attempts and the health issues that can come with that.  The last comes with the additional risk of the assisting person being prosecuted.  This also adds a layer of discrimination – only those who have enough money can choose a dignified death.

The evidence from places like Oregon shows that although a majority of people want access to assisted dying, most will not use it.  The comfort of having the option is itself enough to ease anxiety and some of the suffering.  Indeed, I think it’s only about half of the people who get the medication or the go ahead for assisted dying do not follow through.  They live with the knowledge that they have a way out and this can be incredibly freeing.  Indeed, one study reports that pain, depression, anxiety and fear of dying were higher in those who had not requested assisted dying.

Finally I would like to pose an area of assisted dying that a lot of people would agree is ethically sound.

“As he lay comatose on his deathbed in 1936 George V was injected with fatal doses of morphine and cocaine to assure him a painless death” – Jo Cartwright

There is a great chapter in the book Assisted Dying by Reverend John Cartwright about his view on faith and assisted dying.  In this he says “My conclusion is that God approves of helping people to die when the person being helped is near to death, is in great distress and their death is the unavoidable consequence of trying to alleviate pain.”

This introduces us nicely to the Doctrine of Double Effect, the practice that aided George V’s death.  The idea that if a dying person is in pain, it is ethical to provide pain relief at levels which are known to increase the risk of death.  The assumption in these situations is that relief is preferable to a longer, painful life.  It’s obviously a lot more complicated and nuanced but that’s the basics.  From the perspective of God, he suggests that a benevolent God would not wish to prolong the suffering of someone who is inevitably going to die very soon anyway.  This then asks, if the doctrine of double effect is considered ok, what implications does that have on the ethics of assisted death?  Are we to punish people in severe levels of pain, who wish to die, because they are not yet close enough to death?

We expect autonomy in every other part of our life so why can’t we expect it in our death?

My life in trees

I feel like I may have already written this but I can’t find it so I’m going to assume I just pondered it… Trees are important. We carve names and lives into them. We shelter under them and clamber into them.

The first important tree in my life was the tree which introduced me to tree climbing. It was near our driveway and you could see the quiet lane from it. I had my spot and my younger sister had hers, slightly lower down. One day I was in the tree with an adventurous friend who went a bit higher than she should have and got stuck…  We were maybe 4 years old so the heady heights were thankfully fairly close to the ground.  Still friends with her when we were 18, we both remembered that tree.

Later on, I had a reading tree. You had to wrap your legs over a shoulder height branch and swing yourself into it, book and all. But once up, your back would lean against the Birch trunk and your legs would lay out ahead of you on the solid branches. You were slightly hidden in the leaves and so it doubled as a refuge. I never showed been my sister how to climb that tree.

The next important tree in my life was really more of a bench.  The trees sheltered the wooden seat round the corner from the university counselling service.  I would sit there, on a rarely used route, opposite a large metal Buddha in memory of someone or other.  I would sit in my just off the beaten path sanctuary and summon up the courage to enter the single story red brick building with the sign that seemed so huge to me that I couldn’t comprehend anyone not noticing I was going for counselling.  There was nothing else through that exposed door, there was no excuse if anyone saw me.  At that time I needed excuses.  I wasn’t ready to go public with my mental health.  I was barely ready to tell the counsellor.  Then, after, as I waited for my next lecture, I would return to my bench and my trees and the Buddha who was not mine and I would wait.

It was a while after that before I had another favourite tree.  And then it was more a place rather than the tree.  There were years when I didn’t look closely at trees, I just saw them as part of an environment.  I lived in one house for a few years then moved to the next street for a few more.  At the end of those roads, were some trees which dropped delicate pink blossom all over the pavement in the spring. In the summer, I would sit on the grass next to them and often, a small group of people would turn up and tie a tightrope between two of them.  They were fairly good at walking the line and I would steal glances at them through my sunglasses.  I didn’t know them but I felt a bond, we were sharing a space, we were sharing a summers day.

Diana Mini - York Walls

My current favourite tree is one I am documenting throughout the year.  It is a youngish red oak in my favourite park and it seems to be used as a meeting point for people.  The last time I saw it, mums in running clothes with pushchairs were stretching and greeting each other by it.  It is a tough tree.  It holds it’s leaves well past autumn.  It stands slightly alone, no tree within branch touching range.  But I like to think that the other trees are close enough to hear its whispers on the breeze.

DSC_0598 e

Oh, and I nearly forgot the tree from my primary school.  It was just out of sight from the teachers and dinner ladies.  I don’t remember how we got started but we were digging our way to my friend’s back garden.  It backed onto the school.  I’m not sure why we were trying to tunnel our way out of school.  Our school was a little bubble, a snowglobe of safe space.  But we spent lunch time after lunch time digging with our little twigs to get to the other side of the fence.  Looking back, I wonder why we didn’t chose a tree that was nearer her garden…

Do you have a favourite tree or trees which are important to you? Tell me about them!