from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 5 July 2013

no more ms superwoman

OK, so three times lately the concept has once again entered my life: time to give up striving to be perfect by doing too much – trying to do everything, let nobody down, care for too many people and save the world all at the same time.

I have already started to learn to let go some of the time; not to get stressed about Things Undone and also to give myself, first time ever, 'downtime', even if that means saying no to others (that's hard for me). What's more, my computer is at least as much off as on; not bad, considering I earn the bulk of my small income via my computer.

My heart forced all that on me in another bout of out-of-controlness in May – no surprise that my own response to stress and burnout would be an over-taxed nervous and vascular system and heart, where for another it might be CFS, or IBS, or joint problems, or depression or even cancer.

I've known forever it's a pattern of mine, this trying-too-hard. My childhood had certain out-of-control aspects to it, and my way of coping, as the eldest of four, was to be over-responsible (some would say a control freak). This was nurtured later by being sole parent and breadwinner to my daughter. So for three decades I haven't stopped; rarely had evenings or days off, let alone holidays, until relatively recently.

The message is all about slowing down, stepping back, turning away, resting, being inward, recognising that I have limits, challenging my own need to be permanently engaged and involved, and that I actually, in practical terms, can't save every sentient being (a precept I took on discovering Buddhism in my teens and subliminally thought I had to live up to on a literal level) – I've spoken of this before; and there's also being willing to disappoint another to be true to myself, etc.

There's something here too about allowing the yin/anima/feminine principle, the being-rather-than-doing, aspect to rise to the surface: all that doing and saving and being conscientious and capable at all times has a certain yang/animus/masculine drivenness to it, so of course it manifests in high blood pressure and heart stress: all that hot air rising! We live in a yang culture, and I notice that I'm trying to play by the yang rules; or at least, that's what's driven me. No surprise then that where I find true and solid tranquility is out in the world of nature, alone – a yin space for me.

It's also a kind of addiction to perfection; not wanting to be found wanting (nice double-play there).

Many years ago – maybe in my late twenties – I read the book Addiction to Perfection. It made a lot of sense and I took no notice at all, in practical terms.

My sister, who also read it, mentioned it again yesterday.

Then just now I read Oriah Mountain Dreamer's latest blog. She talks about how an addiction to perfection can make you give up when you slide. She quotes this, too, which is also useful for a writer to hear: "I once heard Robert Bly talking about poet William Stafford. Stafford apparently made it a practice, a commitment, to write one poem a day. Once, when an interviewer asked him what he did when the poem he produced was no good, Stafford replied, 'I lower my standards.'" ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer from "What We Ache For." 

I expect myself to be all things to all people all the time. The idea of lowering my standards and letting myself be human instead of trying to be perfect all the time is scary – exactly what I need to learn, then.

And as it happens my friend Sharon provided the first of these three reminders over on her EarthLines blog by posting this poem by Martha Postlethwaite earlier in the week; this was such a boost for me to read, so I post it for you, too:


Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.

Martha Postlewaite

The final episode in a comedy series on radio 4, 'The Castle', I caught as I was driving north to the Exmoor coast a couple of days ago had the old king saying 'Standards have fallen lower than a hoodie's trousers.' Makes me smile. I'm going to let mine drop round my ankles, metaphorically speaking, in that quiet clearing in the forest. In a non-striving non-driven feminine kind of way.


  1. Dear Roselle - Hard, isn't it? The curious thing is that I find when I mentally let go I have more physical energy and achieve/create/give more anyway in less time. Maybe because I'm less angsty about it all. Go figure. I'm not sure we're supposed to make sense; I've given up worrying :-) Glad you liked the poem and good to see you chilling, but try not to trip over the trousers. With much love from a fellow addict xxx

  2. Thanks, S. Must be my age - am less worried these days about all of it - no longer fear I'm missing out/slacking if an hour or two slides by and all I've done is watch the buzzard and dream a little... Dropped the trousers n all, so nothing to trip over ;-)

    Hope you can manage that too; the hanging out, if not the baggy trousers!


  3. Dear Roselle, and if your trousers are round your ankles they will make you stumble - turn round on your back and look into the sky and you'll see your life song floating down! Congratulation on how far you got!!! I know it's hard, but we CANNOT save them all and some don't want to be saved.
    With love Beatrice xx

  4. Hi dear B - countdown for you now? See you soon - I trust you'll have a mobile signal at Maggie's! And you'll be pleased to know I've tossed the trousers into a bush ;-).

    Love to you xx


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