www.jesusonthetube.co.uk for my other website showing Jesus on the Tube
www.agracefuldeath.blogspot.com for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life
On Life Not Being Linear And Things Not Happening In An Orderly Queue
Is your life a series of well planned and expected events? Have you put things into place so that you have safely covered all known reactions and have anticipated all possible fall out from what it is that you have so confidently and carefully planned? And if an Unexpected Consequence pops up, do you give an indulgent little chuckle, shake your head and give it a quick deadly squirt of the Unexpected Consequence Spray - Get Order Back Into Your Life With This Unique Blend Of Certainty and Predictability... (as in a very memorable TV episode of Batman and Robin in the 1960s. Batman was escaping shark infested waters with Robin, when Robin said "Quick Batman, use your anti shark spray". A very good thing too, and as he pulled out what looked like a can of deodorant and sprayed the sharks to death with a quick squirt or two, he said "Gee Robin, quick thinking, thank you"). Have you, then, got your life where you want it? I expect those that have, are saying to themselves "Yes, and I keep a tight control of it so that it doesn't change and give me a nasty shock." And you pat your pockets nervously just to check that your Anti Unforseen Events spray is safely where you put it that morning.
If I have never had a neat orderly life, I wonder if that is because I am incapable of making the choices to live one. In life coaching speak, one can ask a) is it me? b) is it you? c) is it life? It would be very satifying to say Actually, Yes, It Is You. Your Fault Matey and follow it with a little think, before adding, And Life. Life Is To Blame Too. At no point, the subtext goes, have I had anything to do with it.
So, we know I have two Rioting Sons. The 17 Year Old is being Who He Is in London in a flatshare, and living off thin air and packets of MacDonalds sugar. He was alive last night, we had dinner together and I didn't detect any signs of Madness. The 14 Year Old is excluded again from school for more rage induced thuggery. While I am thinking of ways to deal with my wayward Robo Cop boy, 20 Year Old Daughter calls excitedly to tell me about Christmas Day and I am having, it seems, at least 13 for Christmas now. How did all this happen? Is it Life, is it Me or is it You? (Still you, I'm afraid.) I brought up the children with much love and kindess. I showed them how to cook, and said things like, "Be nice, my babies" and hugged them and played with them and became an Artist and generally muddled along like any well meaning, slightly vague and very nice but overwhelmed Fairy would. I tried to do the normal things like sending them to school, and remembering what subjects they were taking and when they were ill, taking them to the doctors. I had loads of friends, in fact my door was always open and we had a wonderful stream of folk coming and going at all times, so there was always conversation. Like, "Who are you? Have you been here long? Yes, I live here, I own this house - yes, my name is Antonia. Are you staying long?" and so on. I divorced my husband, so I was capable of big decisions, and I lost 5 stone in weight because I had become terribly overweight and I ran the London Marathon in 2004. But I was never really in the driving seat. I was always surprised at what life threw at me, and even more surprised when I made a good decision and saw it through. I was terribly surprised at everything, I remember. "Goodness! What? Oh! Wow. Eh?" was the kind of thing I said often.
So I was not aware of the Linear-ness of life then. I would have been astonished that things could even aspire to being in an orderly queue. Orderly Queues were an alien concept, Orderly Queues happened to other people, strange other people Out There somewhere, and I had never met any of them. Shiver.
Fast forward to now. Older and wiser and in Bognor Regis. And I take as much control of my life as I can, I can see how much good it does both to me and the children. I learned, eventually, the concept of boundaries and how to say the word No. I do the things I need to, I no longer drift with confused astonishment from one crisis to the next, and I have come to the conclusion that actually, the way my life is lived is not You really, nor Life, it is Me. (With a bit of You and Life from time to time). Armed with this satisfying wisdom and behaving at last as an adult, I am still thrown by how - despite my planning and my best intentions, I am still constantly in the midst of storms seemingly not of my making. My darling little boy, that cuddly little fatso, has turned into a furious unpredictable thumping machine. He is a prisoner of his anger and because he is only 14, lives entirely in the present and is not responsible (he thinks) for anything he does. "Not my fault" he says while I wonder what the heck to do next and where to go for help. 17 Year Old Son, that furious, complex and fierce young man, is re inventing himself in London having detatched himself from all of us because we Don't Understand. Except from me, he likes me. Quite right too. I have loved and lost Steve which shook me terribly - how on earth could someone die on me, and I found Alan. That, suddenly isn't to be either. What? How? We would like to be together but we are only human. The obstacles in our way defeated us at last and we have called it a day. What? How did it turn out like that? I thought my life would stretch into the distance with nice kiddies (eventually) and Alan by my side until Wham. It went pear shaped. I didn't see that coming.
But into this ghastly melee, come different surprises. Ping! Everyone wants Angels! I love doing Angels - to sit in my studio and do Angels is not work, it is luxury. The A Graceful Death trajectory changes after I drag myself into London while fretting and sighing over the latest Nonsense the 14 Year Old Kung Fu Panda has got himself into; I can scarcely get myself into London and across it I am so demoralised, but I do. And within a morning, the meeting changes my perception for the better and I know what to do for A Graceful Death, and it is not what I expected but it feels gooood. Ping! An old friend calls me up and I am delighted. Ping! The most unexpected result for the 14 Year Old Thrasher. He spied a Yoga CD the Glorious Clarissa put into my bag and decided to try it. (But Son, there is no blood in Yoga. There is no hospitalization in this activity, and those that practice Yoga like each other. And say nice things). He has asked for Yoga lessons. Yes! I whisper. If that is what it takes to make you sweet and charming and whole, then let us go now to India and transform your pretty soul.
And now I am hosting, at the last count, 13 for Christmas. Didn't see that one coming either. I sit here in my studio these days, and take deep breaths every morning to steady myself for all the nonsense that keeps exploding around me. And while I am dealing with that, little miracles come drifting in through the window like moths. They fly around me asking to be seen and if I am paying attention, I am amazed at how lovely they are.
In conclusion, there is nothing linear or orderly about life in Bognor Regis at the moment. Despite being a sensible and rather calm old bird now, I am still reeling by how things have turned out in the last few months. "Blimey," I am heard to say, "form an orderly queue, there. Fair's fair."
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