Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for March, 2008
The Vitality Show was far better than I had expected, and in the end I did not really mind 5 days of Olympia nearly as much as I had thought I would. So I have emerged Triumphant. Phew, basically. It is so easy to feel down trodden and overwhelmed in the face of huge corporations who can splat money everywhere, and they do, they do. Muller Rice gave away 120,000 pots of goo over the show. Lovely.
In the meantime, the clocks changed and I am not up to speed at all. I am dangling along behind, wishing that I could somehow catch up. I am sure it will happen, but I am in the shop, longing for a nap.
It took so long to get out of the show last night as we were on the 1st floor and there was only one lift, I lay under my beautiful coat and slept between filling trolleys up with boxes, rails, lights and tills. Lying there. Semi awake, exhausted, up on a balcony listening to all the banging and clattering, it was wonderfully surreal. Driving home after was not such fun, and at 10pm, when I finally sat down, my daughter wanted all her hair cut off and did not see why she should wait. Why not? So I did it. She now has a pretty bob and the Puli, the dog with dreadlocks, has the longest hair in the house. Little by little we are all now joining the ranks of Normal Hair. It is such a relief. I can honestly say I love my hair now and I hated it for years. The children would inadvertently sit on it, the dogs would lie on it, it would get trapped in the car door and hooked around chairs. Funny, what we put ourselves through. (How to shrug on weblog is an art I have yet to master.)
The title of this piece is an expression that we developed over the show. You get such a vast range of people at theses monster events. It is amazing to see the wide are the varieties that we come in, us humans, and there are always a few that are not too well wrapped. When confronted by a person with frayed edges, one has to be like a sheet of glass with the scrambled eggs that the visitor has become, sliding off the glass. It really does work. In my mind I am saying to myself, “be like glass, be like glass.” And I am unaffected by the succubus. We had a few last night, released into the show from God only know where. At one point there was a gaggle in the stand and we just stood back and let then tie themselves in tight little knots, whilst mentally repeating the mantra and soon they moved on. With nothing to attach to, there was really no point staying.
Times are challenging, and that is without being a cursed hedge fund manager or JK Rowling. I know, I saw the front page of the Times, yesterday. But it is true, it is an interesting period for all of us.
There seems to be less and less spare time. Everything feels rushed and incomplete, somehow, certainly that is my experience. I just had a slow, sleet laden walk in the park, which was nice, my first for ages, but in the main, life whizzes past, and the notion that I am achieving anything is still just an ambition.
I do get up early and do lots of “yogic things” that help me a lot, but they are mostly physical. By the time I have reached the end of my practice it is time to move on, plus I hate doing it after 7am. So I do not get to do much meditation, really sitting and letting go. Allowing myself to dissolve out of my mind.
(A slight aside here: my mind is on a bender. It is totally determined to prove that it really is my worst enemy.)
To redress the balance, and to conquer the turmoil that has been raging all on it’s own, like an out of control Global Warming forest fire, I have taken to meditating lying down at night. Oh, God, literally, it is divine. Exquisite release from the endless mental clattering. It sounds, my mind, at times, like 100 football boots running on tarmac. I can lie down and disappear for hours at a time into one of several mantras and it is so fabulous that I am furious with my mind for allowing me to forget what a great tool it is.
But now I have remembered. I sometimes think I need to have all the tools tattooed in a long list down my arm and then have an alarm clock to remind me to look at them and then a handy fist to punch me into using them.
I am my own worst enemy and it is so boring.
On a lighter note, Tigger the puppy has not made friends with the other dogs. High alert still remains on.
We all have lots of them. Not only do I know I do, but endlessly, one encounters those of others.
Following teachings, religions, systems, education, politics… what else? The list is long. Every moment is coloured by opinions and beliefs.
How we think about ourselves, what we think about others, what we long for, need and desire. How the world sees us, responds to us. What we teach our children and what we expect others to teach them. How we think we should be dealt with and be able to move through life.
All of these, and I am sure, many more, are our opinions and beliefs.
What if all of that disappeared? Would that be NOW? The NOW of Eckhart Tolle, Andrew Cohen and Sri Aurobindo? Or would it be chaos? A kind of uncontrollable madness where we just stood still, mouths open, like rabbits with myxamatosis caught in the headlights, unable to move? I think this is what would happen. Either that, or a state of delight and innocence would overtake us all and we would examine every moment with awe and wonder, captivated by the possibilities that total open mindedness brought to each moment. But of course, we would be unable to make any choices because there would be no judgement or opinion. SO we would end up like the rabbits.
Arghh! Round in circles.
Sometimes I wish I could see and feel and experience things without all the history, the fear, the pain and the insecurity. Or perhaps I could have a private highlighter. A magic marker that only I could see, that would highlight where my thinking is lacking in openness and innocence. What would that change?
It is something I have longed for for years, that ability to be totally present with no pain of the past or fear of the future colouring my experience of now. 16 years later I still long for this place. I wonder if it exists, or am I just not eligible for membership? Is anyone there? If they are, would they let me know how it is and how to get a ticket please?
I enter the realms of things one should not say on the weblog far too easily. The politics of China and the Dalai Lama are one of these places.
They rank along with Princess Diana, Catholicism and Mother Theresa.
Suddenly George Bush is no longer the baddie, it is now China. I cannot express my thoughts here and will not, but please refrain from sending me emails asking me to Free Tibet because I do not think I have either the time or the ability.
Controvertial Stuff, in capitals, I know, and like all the other topics mentioned above, sure to raise fury and hackles all over the place, but my mind is elsewhere. Added to that, I do not think the Olympics should be about politics. If anyone thought about it at all, why the hell vote for China in the first place? Seems insane to me, but if you are either open minded enough or stupid enough to have said yes in the first place, pulling out at the last minute is not really too kind. What with Stephen Speilburg and now His Holiness…
On a lighter note, my daughter’s best friend is a Labrador puppy called Tigger. Sweet and pretty full-on. I did know what was coming, I did, but I did not think that the Puli would want to eat the puppy. That part is stressful, but I am sure it will pass once she emerges from swallowable size. Until then we are all on high alert.
And in my highly techno bunnie form i have just learned how to make the newsletter myself. If you would like to be added to the list because you long to see how I did and also want Devotion updates, then do email me. I feel empowered by my ability to make a newsletter. Little things do make a difference.
We have a puppy. A small but perfect Labrador. My 5 year old daughter is manifesting maternal instincts that are almost scary and the two other dogs are highly put out.
We are only on day 1.5 and it is getting better, but the decision was not taken lightly. One of the original dogs is very old, so this is the transition so that he can relax and the very odd but lovely poodle discovers the joy of a puppy all of his own.
Right now he is no where near that place, but the new dog is only 9 weeks. We have 15 years for this to work out….
Otherwise I am in those places that web log cannot go. Those dark, personal, windy corridors where the impersonal dares not go, where secrets and personal reality lie breathing deeply. So there are long spaces in the writings. I think about what to say, but as I am still on News Blackout mode I have nothing to kick against, nothing to rail about, and no comments to make. It is a peaceful place for me, a change from the intensity of the past year where going into retail at a tie when the “world is about to end” seemed like a somewhat fool hardy step and I would watch the news avidly, read it with a burgeoning sense of gloom and doom that I carried with me through all the moments of my day.
I think I peaked in India, in January, and realised that if I did not take some drastic steps I would implode. I certainly felt close to internal combustion out there, alone, making huge choices by myself, again. Something had to stop, and as certain destruction was not up for negotiating I realised it was me that had to do something different.
That was early January. It is now mid March and I have learned a lot about me, my fears, my insecurities, how they feed, how they lack any compassion or kindness and need to be carefully managed. This is where I am now, the managing part. It is going well but is not for public devouring.
Back to the puppy.
Angst. And cark.
A new word, cark. It is another definition of angst which is a derivative of anxiety.
Today, along with stress, my world is made up of words. In fact it has been words that have made up the bulk of my last few days.
A lot of the words have been spoken or written by me, it is true, some have been said by my children and my husband, quite a few, actually, and then great swathes come from others, not many of which I actually want to look at, take in, acknowledge, deal with or respond to.
I have peaked on grumpy old men, too, which is profoundly hampering several of my life experiences.
So I have spent the morning trying to land. I am far from grounded. I have breathed deeply. Nailed a smile to my face, put on mascara and now sit here hoping that the act of writing will drag me into now.
I have had two days at home to write the text for a new website. That was the intention but the reality was that I achieved a structure, but not as much verbal filling as had been longed for. But in the searching for the style, the method behind the content it is now becoming so much clearer and 9 months of hard work is beginning to come alive, visually. I will have something to show quite soon, I hope.
Being at home was interesting. We are in the middle of a huge stock take and so my husband has been at storage all day all week, the children at school, and the au pair improving her knowledge of English. This left me home, alone, in the silence, for the first time in 9 years. A strange reality, in fact, but it was great. Calm, still, silent. Just me in my cark and angst trying to drag out of myself all that I want to have on this new site.
It is part Devotion, the store and then a whole new space called This Life divine. It will take a while longer, but it is pretty much there.
So, have I grounded myself? No, but I have become very clear about how much energy I put into relationships and intense discussions with people that really serve nothing positive. The usual weblog constraints apply here, so I will not expand, suffice to say, good boundaries are essential, and mine have been blown about a bit recently.
I will not cease form mental strife,
nor shall my sword sleep in my hand…..
Oh, God, again.
I lay on the floor this morning, after a particularly strenuous piece of yogic technology, waiting to catch my breath, and those delightful lines flooded into my head.
I was thinking about hymns yesterday. Our children are at a Steiner School. This means that they get a particular version of life and it’s attendant meanings funnelled into them. Life all children, information is poured in, like little fois gras, most get a version of the same thing at the young age, but ours will escape hymns I think. I hope.
I occasionally break into the odd one and they sit looking at me wondering how I know such dirges. As my husband is French he lacks this educational imprint, too, so hymn singing is a lonely past time.
But as usual I have slipped away from the main thrust.
It may be blatantly obvious to all; I know it is to some, that I went to a Catholic Boarding School. The Convent of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was awful. The stuff of Gothic Novels. Containing characters as diverse as the Kissing Bandit. He was the priest with a predilection for young girls who he would, yes, dribbling and panting, pick up and kiss. There was the lesbian matron and her cohort; a nun called Sister peter with a chest the size of a battle ship. Then the Head Mistress.
Ahh, Sister peter. No soaring chorus of love here. She was a vicious and vindictive witch who must have been locked out of some kids horror story and found her way into a boarding school to carry on her arts with a salary.
She wore a cowl, a very tight cowl that pulled her face and chin forward. I wobbled when she was angry, so it wobbled a lot. Nestling on her chin was a suppurating wart. When we where whipped into singing Jerusalem, it was her favourite hymn, her tears would flow and she picked at her wart nervously until it bled. Serried rows of unhappy children singing and watching this crazed nun picking herself apart. Such fun.
So the first lines of this text are not to be taken lightly. They contain much pain and suffering and it was not hers, trust me. And when I really think what they are saying it is awful. It is as though from a young, and totally lacking in any innocence, age, mental dramas were hammered into us. All of us. “I will not cease from mental strife”?
God, I hate religion….
How hard can it be?
I have my first day off for months and I seem to be unable to relax. It is hideous! My children are completely incapable of playing without me, there is food to be cooked, the kitchen to clear, dogs to walk and I am incapable of finding time to myself, alone.
I have ended up threatening the children that if they do not go and play they will go to bed, just so I can have 5 minutes alone. How bad is that? I have said no all day to TV because I hate it and it is not a solution at all. I got them to do 100 star jumps to stop the squabbling and refuse to play Monopoly because I hate how I behave….
Oh, God, I can so easily feel like a bad mother. And I do, I do.
We had a two day shoot in the country last week and I took Isadora with me. She was great. An excellent model for the pictures, cooked great cakes, played and hung out like a real girl and it was a pleasure to spend time with her. I think it was good, too, to have such a concentrated time with her. Although it does not appear to have had a long term effect on her ability to sulk…
The shop is one year old this week. One year goes by very fast. It flies by, in fact. We have done well. Better than predicted, but of course it is no where near enough. I always want more, to be elsewhere, to be slimmer, taller, richer. Anything other than here and now. I don’t see it as a personal failing, more as the human condition that on some level we all go through.
Getting older is so interesting. It is something that Baptiste and I were discussing today. How cruel it is.
I hated my looks and my body all through my teens, my twenties and my thirties and now I would love to be anywhere close to that size or shape now! And to see the gradual wearing away of the veneer, the cracks and chips that now appear and the faded parts. I have no real resistance, I don’t actually wish to be younger or to go back, mainly because I am so much happier in my head, but it is a quest in the deepest sense to take it all on and to see it happening around me, too. My peers are also slipping down, fading, getting sick and tired, grumpy and old.
I confessed today my most hated moment in the day.
The school run. Arghhh!
I cannot say any more. It falls into what one cannot say on weblog.
I sneaked a look at the front page of the paper today and it was fabulous, totally fabulous.
The UN has spoken out against Britain’s Celebrity Cocaine Culture.
Well that will have them flocking to rehab, I bet. How great. Can you imagine, Amy, Kate, and all the rest of the medias’ babes all feeling really bad about their reputations now that the UN has spoken out. “Let’s all clean up our acts, let’s all behave….” I would really love to know what is the intended result of this comment? I am not sure it will stop anything, unless it was to please the Taliban and the Moral Majority in the States. Perhaps that is it. I have tripped upon the reason.
Naughty, I know, but it has to be said. I wish I could see the comments and leaders about it all, but I am in Kent until tomorrow night photographing all the Summer clothes in the cold, bright sunshine. Madly running around trying to find places to shoot where it does not look scorched and wintry. The spring is slow to come here, the daffs are barely out, but we are doing well. The model is great. Pretty, witty and fun, the make up artist is excellent, the stylist has a great eye, my lovely daughter is one of the models, and my assistant is imaginative. What more could I ask?
It would be easy to think that I am going to spout off about Rupert Murdoch or Cadbury, but I am not.
Every night of the week, instead of watching TV, we play games with the children. At first it was hard. I felt like a bad parent saying “I do not like games”, which I did say quite frequently. But I have discovered over time that I love games. We play all manner of different things from balancing sticks on each other to card games, drawing to word games. We laugh a huge amount and it is a great pleasure now. I find I resent the weekend coming where the treat for the kids is to watch films.
But a new flavour entered the arena this week; Monopoly. Initially we were playing with a Mickey Mouse cardboard one in Arabic. Louis was the banker (of course) and the money was all in millions. It was funny and silly and I immediately ordered a “proper one” . It came indecently fast and I should have known there and then that it was bringing something else into the room.
Have you ever heard the adage “if you want to know how spiritual you are spend time with your family”?
Well I have rewritten it; If you want to know how spiritual you are, play Monopoly”.
Arghhh! It was a nightmare! I was shocked and horrified by how appalling I was! Arghhh! Again and again.
I was sitting there telling myself to have a sense of humour. I was angry, jealous, mean, grabbing, furious….. the list goes on and on. Oh, God, how horrid I am!
I am sure we will be playing again soon and I am sure I will not get any better as a human being, I just might buy all the Train stations immediately now I know how much rent you get if someone lands on them.
On a lighter note, 35 samples of clothing for the summer have come from India and all are great. Phew. So much hard work with a big reward at the end. It is so nice to see the quality of the stitching and how the colours have all worked. The actual clothes arrive at the end of next week.
I was on the telly this week, on Dawn get s a baby on Channel 3 for the BBC. I said pussy on camera. I was not describing a cat. I was thrilled it was aired, the word, and so was my delightful niece. The program was good, too, and can be seen on the BBC website. I think it might be my Warholesque 15 minutes of fame. Well, that and Good Housekeeping. I don’t really think I I should say both things, pussy and Good House Keeping, in the same breath or the same sentence. Some kind of thunderbolt is bound to follow. That may turn out to be my second 15 minutes of fame. “Shop Keeper Frazzled in Balham” I can see it now.