Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for 2012
I love to write but as I train to be a Psychosexual Therapist I get told off for my weblog because it is honest and open about me ( bizarrely, that is not allowed. I am supposed to be inhuman and beyond reproach! Yikes. Not much chance of that.). There is much I do not tell, and I have learned over the years to be careful. I am constantly surprised by who reads it and so adjust the version of my reality that makes it’s way into the ethers. It is not always the whole truth.
But it is time to write again and the subject is a badly behaved one…………..Anger.
An interesting topic and one that is very challenging to deal with.
Ask a room full of women “who is angry?” And I kid you not, the whole room will raise a hand. Ask the same question in mixed company and a different result will transpire. Most of the married women will look down and most of the men will laugh, uncomfortably.
Anger is an inappropriate emotion for women to express. The responses are many and not very varied, mostly along the lines of bitch, cow, slag….. an angry woman is seen as a frightening creature, one that is shunned, vilified and largely, ignored. We are taught, and propound this odd reality by not expressing anger appropriately, nor are we seen as angry in the media, that an angry woman is a bad thing to see, experience, know, be in a room with.
I had a phase of looking at the newspapers to see the images of women, how we are portrayed on a daily basis and it is not good. Anger is expressed by soldiers, Muslims, footballers, politicians (who are mostly male apart from the stunningly angry and out there Australian Prime Minister), and all women shown are either Angela Merkel, bikini-clad or incontinent and selling Stanner Stair Lifts.
We, those of us who admit to anger are few and far between. Personally, I am often extremely irritated, frequently annoyed and at times, down right furious. I have learned not to rage, though. Such unpleasant after-shocks, I have no truck with it in myself or anyone else. And having lived with a rager for 20 years it leaves me cold.
So now an interesting combination of realities: divorce, selling my house because of a court order, single parent with precious little maintenance, mother of a teenager and Oh, yes, running a business under the aegis of a Conservative Government in a recession…. I have a sense of humour, clearly, but boy, do I get irritated.
Of course the short circuit is “oh, you must be menopausal….” So I looked it up.
Symptoms, anger, irritation, mood swings. Seems that being female is actually a diagnosable pathology and if I choose to, I can let it all get swamped in the umbrella of “The Menopause”….
I thought those were the side effects of being female in the 21st century. I did not realise they meant I was unwell. Does it help that my anger can be justified and swallowed by menopause?
No, and actually, why can’t I be angry?
The banks are bastards, the law is an ass and a female mid-life crisis does not seem to lead to a bright red sports car, but hours in run down National Health clinics waiting for blood tests and doctors to say yes, you are old and grumpy. Oops, sorry, menopausal.
Now where am I left at the end of this? Honest, open, aware that I am talking heresy here, and actually not saying don’t be angry, get cured, take HRT, but I can lead you to interesting meditations, and practices that make the feelings bearable, give good boundaries so you can be angry without it making you feel morally reprehensible, and all are tools for empowerment.
Frankly I think a lot of anger is highly appropriate right now towards all of those mentioned above, the soldiers, Muslims, footballers, and politicians who are behaving in ways that are seriously affecting all of us.
So the empowerment lies here: A good meditation to calm anger is Sitali Pranayam.
A meditation for Conquering Inner Anger
My Youtube Channel is a vast resource. There are loads of meditations, techniques, yoga sets etc there….
Easy to say Insane, but I choose to be here. I like the softness of the place, love listening to the language and endlessly watch my desire to be able to speak in such expressive ways, but like a lizard in the sun, I do nothing to further my ambition.
The people are kind, from a distance. I only get to relate, from a distance, in the main, and meet endless assumptions about how one should be, who one is, what one wants and my use of the impersonal is just: they know nothing about me, my life, my longings or my desires so none of it is personal. And it can be mirrored neatly back: I know nothing of theirs, either, apart from all that I see around me and can so swiftly judge but choose not to.
I love the dry heat. It is like a wall of blazing, unflinching fire so intense that at times it makes me gasp. I have the utmost respect for it, I see evidence of the power all around me in the destroyed paintwork, artwork, nature and faces. The dust, the sun, the dryness, the heat…. All is merciless and at the same time everything is still. Effort is futile, all is desultory and measured against the heat. God is Great.
Adding to the sense of powerlessness is the dryness of Ramadan. No one can eat or drink, smoke or chew gum, no sex and lots of prayer during the day. The shop keepers are tired and grumpy, everyone is longing for Iftar, the evening meal, the moment when the fast can be broken, which is at 6.31 precisely, changing each evening.
In the build up to Iftar the roads are insane, with everyone madly heading home to break the fast with family. The darkness, the lights of cars and the sodium lights in the streets all add to the drama with black shadows and a curious denseness to the atmosphere.
I choose to walk each day in the midday sun. It is so extreme, so mind-blowingly hot, too bright to see without sunglasses, and not a drop of perspiration can survive on the skin. The shadows are hard and surprisingly cold to look at, but sitting under a tree to settle to banging of the blood in the head is not cold, nor cool. There is just the sense that one can take a deep breath without scalding the lungs. Trust me, it is an illusion.
I ran 2km yesterday evening. I was surprised that I could, but the sun was on it’s way down, there was a slight breeze and I was determined. Not a trace of sweat anywhere on my skin until I lay down inside to re-balance my blood pressure and I was awash. The air had been absorbing all moisture from me.
I like to take photographs in the high, bright light of the day. The sense of extreme is magnified, intensified, heightened.
As usual, I used a Sony Cybershot….
I went to bed at 10.30 and was warm enough: t shirt, long heavy cotton nightdress, jersey cotton trousers, a sleeping bag, 2 cashmere shawls, a thin quilt and a stitched cloth with my drizabone close by in case this was not enough. Just as we were settling down to sleep I heard an adult male, very close by, berating Louis about the gas stove. Apparently the French Government have made it illegal to have open fires in forests and I face prosecution if I do not get up and move it right now. I negotiated from my warm stacked up bed and agreed to have it moved by 10am. I woke at 3.30 and got up for a pee, kneeling on a very large slug in the process, which popped under my weight. I staggered outside nervously wondering if I would be clubbed from behind as I was wearing earplugs and could easily be taken by surprise. Slid on more slugs on the way back in and got into bed to wonder how much more unpleasant this could get…. The resulting 3.30am insomnia led to my thinking about the French, draconian law and how to make tea. Obviously I bored myself to sleep…. Awoke to my tent awash with large slugs and rain, again. I have made myself tea and porridge. A sort of last stand against the tyranny of PC beaurocracy, keeping a weather eye open for lurking PC beaurocracy enforcers. Getting the oat flakes was a trip. 10 or so slugs had set up camp in my Sainsbury’s boxes, all curled possessively around the Nesquick and the chocolate Weetabix. They are huge, wrinkled, deep brown ones and very slippery, not just in the nature but on their skin, too. By the time my oats were cooked I must have stood upon another 15 or so and have peaked, pointlessly. I have a plan, though. I wondered what I would hate if I were a slug and decided Lemon Juice! So I have smeared the rims and outer edges of the aforesaid blue boxes with it and wait to see a slug pucker. So the children still sleep, and the good news is that the spiders obviously think very little of the endless wet so Isadora is oddly squeal-free. Bizarrely, I need a shower and have to head off, head covered against the shocking sight of my cropped head, lest a yogi gets a “Judgemental Conniption” and in doing so, feels themselves constrained to let me know exactly what they think of my hair cut….. a couple of very observant ones have carefully checked out my sideburns whilst trying to look nonchalantly spiritual and decided it is too risky to ask me directly without sufficient evidence and have wandered off, obviously eyes peeled to find someone who might “know”….. The day holds another trip to the joys of Blois. A surreal shopping park with lots of roundabouts. I will buy a kettle and have to come up with a new plan for my breakfast…..
I taught a yoga class for the addictive Personality today at Alchemy on this topic and it was potent and powerful.
I talked about seeing an intention all the way through, the duality of the word: that it can be a desire in the future “I intend to ……” but that it can also be that you empower posture, yourself, ambition and desire with intention and in this aspect it is a very life changing experience.
I invited the class to join me in my intention to generate change and create structure in their life by committing to a 40 personal practice. I did not count hands but I think most of the class were with me and I took them through the daily routine.
The intended intention behind the 3 postures is to build grit, heat in the body, creativity, projection, will and strength. It may sound like a tall order but I know from previous commitments to this practice for 40 days I have achieved all that I set out to do and more.
So join us. Starting tomorrow, for 40 days, ending on June 12th, find a quiet time that you can give 7 minutes to yourself.
Lie on a mat or folded blanket. Wear loose comfortable clothing. Eat after, not before.
10 sit ups. Knees are bent, feet on the floor, fingers at your temples so you don’t pull the neck. Inhale up, exhale back 10 times.
Take a few deep breaths.
10 leg raises. Head up off the floor to keep the lower back strong, fingers on temples, raise legs on the inhale, slowly, and lower on the exhale, slowly. Do not let the feet touch the floor in between.
Take a few deep breaths.
10 sit ups as before.
Take a few deep breaths.
10 leg raises but this time head up, arms out wide and as you raise the legs your arms come up to touch your toes and open back out again on the floor as you exhale and lower the legs.
Take a few deep breaths.
10 sit ups as before.
Take a few deep breaths.
10 leg raises, keep the head up, and this time as the legs raise up keep going up and lift the pelvis up as high as you can off the floor towards the ceiling. Exhale and lower pelvis and legs.
Take a few deep breaths.
Now turn over and do, or aim for and build up over the days, 10 press ups with only the hands and toes on the floor. If this is impossible do from the knees, keeping the body straight and making sure the elbows go back, not out.
Take a few deep breaths.
10 more press ups.
Sit back on your heels, close your eyes and slow the breath down, feel the heat and energy in the body and visualise what you want to project, create, change and manifest.
You will build strength very fast. Take your time, make a set time each day and let me know how you are doing! I want to know how it feels, what changes.
I am an unabashed feminist, a single parent, recently divorced, ex-drug addict and ex alcoholic…. Swearing is part of the programme, or at least it has been for me for a long time. I can honestly say that given the last few years’ experiences, swearing felt completely justified.
I have done so much work to stay centred, present, focused, de-stressed, calm and aware, yet swearing has just been one of those things that I gave myself permission to do.
I do not judge myself for it and my children who are used to it, do not judge me either, and rarely swear themselves unless “fucking arsehole” is completely appropriate to the situation.
I had no reason to think about it until recently. A fundamentalist yogi was staying with me and with a sneer, commented on my “nasty little habit” and then a friend mentioned it twice within a two week period.
These moments made me stop and think about it. Attempts to have an intellectual conversation about swearing with several friends were thwarted by judgements and the main thrust of why I wanted the conversation was lost in the melee of me trying to say I did not need the judgement, nor was I interested in their thoughts in my verbals, I just wanted a dialogue about swearing…. What it meant, why not, why, etc.
So I sat back and thought about it for myself. After a few days of mulling I decided to try life without swearing. No fanfare, no Lent-based support of Christ in the wilderness, just a casual attempt to see what it would be like to manage my vocabulary along with no drugs, alcohol, sugar, wheat, cigarettes, caffeine….
At first I was surprised by how much of my swearing was unconscious. I could put a gate in front of most of my swearing, but there was a surprising amount that I did not notice until it had galloped out, and I am happy to say that I can put my hand up and say that I am the queen of alliterated swearing. The amount that escaped before I had even noticed was quite extraordinary. So the next learning curve was to stop that happening.
Two weeks in and I am astonished. I am. I have reduced my swearing by 95% and find that my stress levels have also plummeted… So my expulsion of expletives was expanding my experience of what drove me to explete in the first place. A new verb: I explete… No longer.
Well, just 5%……. Must try harder. I will report back when I get to 100% no swearing. I am currently looking into Elizabethan expletives. Some are hilarious. If I sound out of time and place, you will know why….
It would be easy and snappy for you to judge this as me being menopausal and in doing so the lid of the box would be closed and I would be disposed of by that sweeping statement. In a flash all my individual relevance, experience, history, wit, sexuality and strength would be dismissed and I could be quietly relegated to a shelf in an endless storage facility in a long dark basement… I can see it, like a scene from a Terry Gilliam movie…. With either a really dumpy, ugly, sweaty man having the authority to put me away or a young woman, a perfect size ten, texting whilst nonchalantly chewing gum, whilst listening to headphones, whilst pushing the trolly with my box on it, along a dimly lit corridor……
Insane thinking? Surely not….. It is rife, it’s rampant, sexism and ageism, everywhere. Even the “oh, so PC” Guardian does it….. It is everywhere and we are inured to it…
Sadly not me. I am not in any way menopausal. Regular as clockwork, to the day, I still could go on to procreate again. Trust me, it is on the end of a long list of experiences I have had enough of. I love my children, I do, but to look back at the pit of hell that is early motherhood combined with a lonely marriage, and no thank you.
Women over 45 are completely invisible in the media. How did that happen? Why did it happen? I use my own image to sell my clothes. I get a really good response, and armies of women then go on to talk to me about how invisible they are in the media. The most fascinating,witty, elegant, intelligent women lost in the maze of corridors that we started with: inch your way past 45 and bang, box closed….. None of us see ourselves reflected back to us. We just get to look at miserable anorexic models portraying some bizarre image of femininity that owes it’s roots to the swaths of vampire movies and shows that we are all drowning under. Why? I don’t want to look or dress like a vampire…. I want to be me with the smile lines, the grey hair, the body that bore children… All my experience written all over me.
I am now 52 and have changed more in the past two years than I managed to change in the last 20. I tore a staggering sweep through dogma, assumption, expectations and pointless commitments leaving me clear, calmer, more empowered, but damme and blast, the lenses are off, my view is clear, and at some ungodly hour in the morning I am sitting in Heathrow’s Terminal 4, looking around me at the sparkling shops selling the illusion of luxury, watching the mass of life trying to find its way forward to the next adventure and I am not enjoying what I see.
Apparently it is relaxing to have really loud, really awful music playing all the time. Men straining their vocal chords to tell me how much they want to love me in the most awful rhymes.
And then there is the notion that because I have paid a fortune for a ticket, and then a fortune for the journey here, that I want to buy generic crap… Why? It is plastered everywhere, the mad illusion of wealth, luxury and difference, and you get it by paying over the odds for something that was made in a sweatshop in china, by underpaid humans in appalling conditions, in the millions… Not just the number of underpaid minions but the number of luxury items, too. Somehow the keyring, the scarf, wallet or pair of shoes will magically elevate the wearer out of the dross of their daily routine and transform them into someone with taste and style. Pray tell, how will this magically happen? Ah, by the Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome which is now at epidemic proportions.
I can go on like this around all sort of things: the lack of Internet connection I am promised by some dork with Richard Branson’s beard stuck on his face and so locked into a two year contract which the engaging and kind seller of said contract failed to mention. Or the voice of the woman who welcomes me to Orange…. If I used that voice to speak to them, and I kid you not, I can do an excellent mimic, they would think I was insane, yet that is the voice that drove me so crazy I had to turn off the answer machine on my phone: I still have to hear her if I call orange but I have created a damage limitation zone. And the voice of the woman who comperes Masterchef…
Facebook! What is this? I have 1300 friends. Fantastic, all delightful, but do we really want to look at endless posters commenting on how positive we should all be. A friend, James Delingpole, write recently that the way to get rid of swathes of friends on Facebook is to post something negative…. Suddenly it is the new PC to be stupidly positive or post endless YouTube clips…. Why?
Or Hipstamatic. Arghhhhhh! A loud scream of boredom. Look any of the millions of pictures, and think oh, Hipstamatic. Not, what a great picture, just oh, another iPhone turning life as we know it into a very tiresome photo opportunity and the pictures are all rendered homogenous.
Somewhere it has all gone awry, very quickly, and no one seems to have noticed
Wake up! Live! Get real…… Please……
I am coming back into working as a photographer again and I love it. I cannot describe how much I love to take photographs…. There is a line in the film Billy Elliot, where he is auditioning for the Royal Ballet School. It is all going really badly, and just as he leaves, despondent and rejected, a woman examiner asks him what it feels like when he dances. His reply brings him to life and is word-perfect for my experience of taking photographs.
I have been privileged by some extraordinary sitters recently: I have been doing a series on Make Up, and another on Scars, plus other personal portraits, and each one, each portrait, each Divine Human that sat in front of my beautiful Hasselblad, was an utter delight, a treat, an extraordinarily personal moment and I feel so happy to be back behind the camera again.
I have made a new photography website, www.carolyncowanphotography.com, and although I have an excellent past history, my vision, my view has changed profoundly and it is great to be gently and with great commitment, building to the portfolio again.
So apropos of all of this, if you would like to be part of any of the current projects listed on my site - do please be in touch, but I am also very excited by having just entered the first photography competition for years! I won one ten or so years ago, the prize was an unusable weekend for two in Libya or somewhere equally sprung loaded…. Let’s hope this one is more fruitful…
I have put three images into the Memory category of the Renaissance Photography Prize. All recent images, all of them I am very pleased with.