Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for December, 2010
I have peaked on snow. It may seem a strange thing to say but the more I think about it, experience it and sit here looking at it, the more I feel that it is exactly how I feel.
My snow karma over the past few weeks has been beyond the pale: I have driven in it, been stranded in 18 inches of the stuff, literally, I have hitch hiked through it, packed a van in a blizzard, sat in a plane at Paris Airport being hosed down by cranes spraying orange anti-freeze all over the exterior, landed in a another blizzard just five minutes after the runway re-opened. This morning I looked at the endlessly falling snow and cried. I had had enough, and I still had to face a 20 minute walk uphill, thankfully, in leather soled shoes with two cold children to find an RER station to take us to the Eurostar. All our luggage is lost in it, we have sat for two hours now, stationary, in the 1st class cabin of the train waiting whilst the train in front of us has got itself embedded in more of the white stuff….. I feel that I have done my bit as far as full-on snow is concerned.
Ironically I spent several days in Iceland recently and there was not a flake… but I digress.
What has been interesting through all of this is how much I have had to battle with myself.
Whilst stuck in Kent I was alone. That in its’ self was a trip. A rented long wheel-base white van stuck in a snow drift takes me to places that all my travels with nomads in India and elephants in Africa cannot touch. The voices in my head whilst I marched through the snow, hitch-hiking to get to a main road and being ignored, were quite wild; not only was I astonished by how little a good handbag does for one, but I had not really taken in that I might look dangerous or scary enough not to stop for in 18 inches of snow. It was rather an eye opening experience. When a car did finally stop, and it was just a Golf, none of the tractors or Range Rovers saw fit, I took a moment and a sharp deep breath to get myself into the car. The driver seemed perfectly respectable, but who the hell were they?
Luckily they were the manager of the place I was finally headed towards and I rode with him all the way. Delightful.
In the last few days getting to and from Morocco on a schedule provided by the film producers and travelling with an 8 year old girl and early teen boy I have met a whole raft of other aspects of myself that I could honestly wish would go to hell.
The 24/7 experience of sharing every moment of my waking, sleeping, bathroom, food and walking life with two kids is one thing. To have every strand of patience, tolerance, calmness, reserve, and charm torn to shreds by the plans badly laid by another and blasted to smithereens by the humour of the Divine has been something else entirely.
I have talked myself through pretty much all of it with aplomb, I have. To an outsider I have been calm, amusing and kind. Inside I have been a boiling pot of fury, helplessness, rage, irritation, and insane longings to be left alone just for 5 minutes. It has been a wild and trippy journey just watching myself.
The delightfully amusing steward on the Air France flight last night who informed me, in front of both my children that not only were we taking off into 190 kph winds, but we would hopefully land and it would be a blizzard, joyfully told me how calm and serene he found me in the face of 24 hours travelling, no food, missed connections and lost luggage. The ability to smile sweetly, to keep the illusion and keep going onwards are aspects of myself that I rather like.
But I really have hit moments, minutes and hours, when I have wished I was a better person. Not an experience I have ever enjoyed, feeling like that.
The upside has been the indomitable aspects that so many of us have in a crisis: the people we have spent fleeting moments with, the hilarity, like when all the lights went out at Casablanca Airport last night after 8 hours of waiting for a plane, and the man next to me started singing Happy Birthday. Such a great humour!
Last night I waited in a blizzard with freezing kids and grumpy other displaced passengers for taxis that would take Air France vouchers. None would. I finally peaked and organised 7 of us to share a large van thing and we all, strangers, travelled through the surreal Paris snow storm to a hotel for the night with a driver who must have been heaven-sent he was so wonderful.
Now I sit on a Eurostar train, having abandoned the idea of flight and all luggage, with a woman sharing our table who is funny, thus far enduring 36 hours of travel from Singapore. She is a delight and makes the whole thing the adventure it really is.
The thought of Christmas in an Ibis Hotel on the outskirts of Paris was too awful, but heading out into the snow, the moments, the meetings, the dialogues and the positive energy that one can meet and manifest make it all an experience I am pleased to say I am having. And I am incredibly proud of my children who have been amazing throughout. Taking it all in their stride and only loosing their cool for short moments.
Perhaps I can adjust my feelings about snow, after all…… but then I have to be careful. I am still on the train and it has taken almost all afternoon to get to Calais and we have stopped, just short of the tunnel….. massive snowflakes abound…. 32 hours later…
If you have been a regular reader of my weblog you will have noticed that there has been a decided lack of writing over the past year.
My life has been too personal to be able to write without it seeping onto the page and colouring, in a far too intimate way, the text. So it has been easier to keep silent.
Whatever has been going on is irrelevant, but the effects that it has had upon me physically and emotionally are important and hence the time to write has come around again.
I have a long history of drug and alcohol addiction. This has affected my hormones and particularly my stress response: When I am stressed or feel fearful I shoot a large amount of cortisol into my body. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for the sensation of stress, that feeling of sand in your blood. There are several side effects from elevated levels of cortisol in the blood, including weight gain, especially the tyre that some of us get around our waist. Another aspect of this hormone that affects me is that it causes aching and loose joints.
As a runner this gives me knee and back ache. I run to still my mind, to gain perspective, to master depression. So anything that disturbs this very important aspect of my life has to be dealt with. Over the first few months of this year my joint problems, due to stress, became intolerable. Endless visits to the chiropractor to fix the twists and kinks were wasted trips.
Finally I was told I had to give up all sugar.
Why? An interesting question and one that Adi, the man I see for my bones, explained that the sugar is the initiator of the stress response. That the excess sugar in the diet is stored in the waist as glucose, and that all of this, including the cortisol, makes the ligaments of the body loose and stretched.
So since early August I have not touched any sugar, honey, aspartamine, agarve syrup or fructose. I do eat fruit, but in moderation.
It has been utterly transforming. My temper has subsided. (Please do not ever think it has gone, but it is much more manageable.) My joints are good, I run faster, I sleep better and do not get that awful stressed sensation so often. But the main, and most surprising aspect is that so far I have dropped 12 kg with no effort at all.
Within a week of stopping sugar, and like with all other addictive substances I went cold turkey, I realised just how much of it crept into my consumption every day. I worked out that I was averaging about 15 teaspoons of sugar per day. Yes, it seems like a huge amount but it appears in the most insidious ways: in cereal, marmalade, puddings, drinks. Plus I took sugar in tea and coffee.
The withdrawals lasted about 10 days and since then it has been easy. To remove sugar from the diet has another side effect in that the appetite changes completely and the need for food is very diminished. Sugar needs sugar needs sugar. One easily ends up just acting out an addiction: drinking tea or eating a cake just for the sugar. Once this has been removed the appetite becomes far more moderate. It is a relief, truthfully, and very relaxing to be out of the spiral.
My 8 year old daughter is the 3rd lead in a Bollywood movie. It is an action adventure romp kind of thing. We are shooting in Morocco, in Tangiers.
So, another busy day on set and we have been in the most awful sand storm all day. Endless buffeting, sand everywhere and a heightened feeling of angst from the extreme conditions.
We are shooting in a house on top of a hill overlooking where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean seas meet. It is beautiful. The drive here was exquisite and there were so many stunning villas, gardens, woods and different landscapes that really took us all by surprise.
We all stood to attention yesterday as the King of Morocco drove past the hotel. Today we went beside his massive house on the way to our very isolated location.
Camilla and Louis came with us but were too feint hearted to take the full day so naffed off in a taxi back to Tangiers. We are here, on the beach till five in endless waves of sand blowing tempers, hair, clothes, props and attendant camels all over the place. Isadora has a few more shots in these hideous conditions then we are into the main house which is rather lovely. A beach house over a ravine. The kind of place I would like to escape to right now. There are two set ups with her inside the house then we are finished for the day.
She slept ten hours last night and also ate a huge breakfast and managed a good lunch, too, so that stress has diminished. All the crew are seriously delightful, especially the Indian crew who are so positive, charming, kind, interesting amusing and fun that it is rather awesome to experience them.
My moments are odd. I battle with the experience of being no one but Mummy. I find it hard, to just walk the edges of it all having been in the middle for so many years. But I suppose it is getting easier. I sat in a shelter this morning that was held down by several Moroccans to stop it blowing away, and tried to think. I tried to get perspective and distance but the conditions are so extreme it was really hard to focus my mind. It was wandering all over the place. In the end I decided to sit and meditate. My favourite meditation. I pulled my shawl around me and crossed my legs. Put my hands as they needed to be to activate the neutral mind and found it easy to go off on the mantra and chosen route into the ethers. It was lovely. And the man holding down the tent prodded me to ask me if I was asleep! Too funny.
Lunch was in a café nearby and really was superb. My first good meal here. And now we wait to be called back down to the sand blizzard.
They did not tell us this was a night shoot which is annoying and tiresome. So getting us both mentally prepared for the experience had to be done on the job, at 11pm when we discovered that it was not just one shot but several in the Casbah Museum which is very lovely but totally open to the elements.
So like the naughty mother that I am, the only way to stop her being sleepy and tearful was to feed her coffee. So I did. I told her she could go onto therapy later over the moment but that we needed to get through the night and this was the only way.
We are now faced with 5 days off and I really have no idea what we can do! All suggestions most welcome. It is at this point that I wish I did not have Louis, or that I could send him off to Spain with Camilla but how to get him back, She keeps suggesting or perhaps even insisting that we go to stay with her for a few days but it is expensive, cold and dragging all the luggage and them across Spain is quite low on my list of things I would like to do right now.
We had a good day today: we had a lazy breakfast and they swam whilst I updated the website and pretended to be working. We then took a cab to Café Hafa, the other side of the harbour, It was cold, windy and utterly the most unhygienic place Isadora had ever been in. She was not amused at all! But at least we can say we made the effort to see it. Built in 1921 it is the oldest café in Taqngiers and has seen all manner of luninaries pass through its’ grubby portal.
From there we walked back through the city for about 30 minutes, mostly downhill, to try to find somewhere slightly decent to eat. We did. A Moroccan version of an Italian restaurant. The pasta was disgusting but the pizza delicious, the coffee superb, the service belligerent and the ice cream excellent. It was another amusing meal and we then carried on downhill back to the hotel.
Isadora and I slept for 2 hours and then we went to find a good Indian restaurant we had heard about. It was fine. All cooked to order which meant it took 90 minutes to get our meal but Camilla taught us to play Rummy with Harry Potter cards whilst we waited. Again, great fun, then a high speed dash to meet the driver to come on set and to hurry up and wait.
It is now 2.30am. Isadora is fine. Coffee seems to be the way forward. Isadora drank a cup of the milky nectar and has been smiling rather than tearful ever since. The security guards are all ganged up in the dark by our bags, smoking hashish and I found the body guard of the main actor quietly eating vegetarian pizza. I joined him and now feel, after another cup of coffee, a little more up to the next couple of hours.
I have been sitting in one of the exhibit rooms, surrounded by Roman bits and pieces, writing text for the new website. When I get into the zone it flows.
Isadora is doing really well. Better when I am on the side, in view, but not part of her immediate circle. Somewhere, somehow, there is a competitiveness or an uncomfortableness for her with me too close. She likes to have her own circle around her but to know that I am in the wings.
I think she has a future, I think she will do more of this, especially now she knows what it is. The opportunity to teach her to master her mind is something I do not miss. Her mind is as awful as mine. I watch it engulf her, I have watched it since she was two or so, and these long days, moments of commitment when she wants out but cannot go, are all perfect times to teach her about how to manage herself. I suppose I learn too, as I have to present perfection in this aspect to get her through. So it is a learning curve all round.
They did her master close up at 4am…….