To a brave man every soil forms his country
The title of this post comes from a translation on the back of a Japanese wall hanging…
which was given to my partner, long before I met him, by his father,
who also received it as a gift from one of the friends he made when he worked for a Japanese company.
It’s one of many mementos gathered along the path of life,
which have waited in boxes,
moving from here to there and on again, for many years.
We’ve moved so many times since we’ve been together that we decided somewhere along the way that not unpacking things which we didn’t need to unpack was easier…
and most of the places we’ve stayed have been too small,
turning mementos into clutter rather than things to cherish.
“All migrants leave their pasts behind, although some try to pack it into bundles and boxes, but on the journey something seeps out of the treasured mementos and old photographs, until even their owners fail to recognize them…”
― Salman Rushdie
Finally having a place of our own has allowed us to unpack… and enjoy what is unpacked.
To reveal the old as a new discovery in which to revel.
The Japanese wall hanging came with several beautifully hand-painted cards, each with a message… this particular message seemed the most appropriate for us at this time as we’re both still not quite settled… not quite here yet.
We’re finding our place gradually as each memento finds its own here with us.
Each thing is helping us to truly feel that this is our soil, our country.
We’ve both dealt with finally having a home of our own differently…
One of the ways I’m doing it has been by slowly peeling paint off of the hallway walls.
I didn’t intend to do this,
I didn’t even intend to paint the hallway…
I quite liked it in its heavy and dark red glory, a part of the vision for this place of the previous owner… and therefore a part of the history of the place.
But then the toilet above the hall overflowed, turning the walls into a waterfall…
sometimes accidents are opportunities.
Life’s way of telling you not so subtly that you should do something which perhaps you never intended to do,
and maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself, others, life, and the place where you live by doing it.
The reason for peeling the paint off of the walls rather than just painting over it is due to the fact that this particular paint is vinyl, it’s like plastic, and it traps moisture behind it, not allowing the walls to breathe…
the walls of this house need to breathe as they’re made of clay, they have a tendency to absorb moisture, which is fine as long as it can evaporate, but trap the moisture in the wall and over time it just becomes saturated and begins to lose its ability to hold itself together, then it crumbles… which eventually could cause the house to fall down.
(I’m basically living in a sand castle…)
“And so castles made of sand slips into the sea, eventually..”
― Jimi Hendrix
This is a very tedious job,
even more boring than watching paint dry…
yet there is something satisfying about doing it
(even though I end up covered in a fine dusting of white plaster as though I’m a statuette on a cake someone just sprinkled with icing sugar)
and there is plenty of food for thought which comes with it.
I’ve only just started and have a long way to go,
I’m determined to do this properly
(well, as properly as I ever do anything…)
I even splashed out and bought at least one right tool for the job…
and as I progress strip by sometimes big and sometimes small strip
(there are moments when you can peel huge sections away revealing a smooth surface beneath… and other times when it needs firm pressure applied to a scraper that makes a sound similar to nails on a blackboard, leaving the surface scarred more than it already is)
all sorts of thoughts flood the mind
(not unlike the toilet flooding the ceiling then wall)
(our mind’s mementos… which sometimes unpack themselves and clutter up our internal space)
of my mother telling me that I never finish anything I start,
which was one of her favourite recriminations…
she once sent me to my room for not finishing a plasticine deer
(I had finished with it… I was over the whole idea of making the damn thing)
and told me not to come out until I’d made it.
(there really wasn’t any reason to make it… other than ones which were chosen at the time)
She had a knack for making creative projects and play such fun for a child!
But she was right, I often don’t finish what I start,
(this isn’t always a bad or negative thing to do, sometimes you have to know when to let go and move on from something…
took me ages to realise that what was so wrong with me could also be what was right with me)
and I suppose she thought she was encouraging me to believe in my ability to do things… or teaching me responsibility… or… I’m sure she was the hero of the story in her version of it, and that it was another gold star on her ‘Aren’t I the best mother in the world’ board.
And of course it hurt her more than it hurt me…
I do have many memories of not finishing projects…
some of which I should have finished, or I wished I had stuck with them longer…
sometimes what made me walk away from them was the sheer scale of the work that needed to be done,
(I’d bitten off more than I could chew…
not unlike that Chinese delicacy I once ate which was just a giant rubbery mushroom and which I had to eat because it was ordered especially for me to try…
I did finish it… and wished I hadn’t
wished I’d never started that.)
which loomed ominously and overshadowed my faith in my own ability to do it.
I was brought up under the rule of perfectionists… and perfectionism is a virus that infects your mind’s eye and makes you see everything that you do as being flawed, not good enough, terrible… scrap it and start again from scratch. In its advanced stages it can also make you see the world around you and the people in it that way too… that’s when you’re at your most infectious and ready to pass the virus on so it can grow and go to set up home in someone else’s heart.
“Children make prayers so thoughtlessly, building them up like sand castles—and they are always surprised when suddenly the castle becomes real, and the iron gate grinds shut.”
― Catherynne M. Valente
I woke up this morning with a big case of what I call – The Ego-begos – which is when you terrify yourself by telling yourself that everything you’ve done is awful and you need to undo it immediately!
But what is done is done… and can’t be undone,
however it can be adjusted if it really is awful.
Maybe it isn’t awful,
maybe the eyes which are seeing it just have too much plaster dust sprinkled across their lenses…
and that’s why they are seeing angry fire-breathing red dragon dogs,
where all that is there is just a bit of paint which needs peeling and stripping away.