Blog/Careless Talk

Quest 2016. Introducing self to SELF

The claims of a book written or a book as yet unwritten to old woman running out of time?

Dating ONESELF- The Soul or the White Elephant? ( A New Years gift is there for the asking-see below)

Since ‘coming clean’ is my new tagline I had better fess up. I have always believed I was pretty focused, purposeful, autonomous. Now I recognise I am compulsive and its not pretty. I am like a ship under full sail, but the anchor is not weighed nor the compass set, and under the sharp wind of urgent time I list; capsizing may not be far away.

I don’t understand it.

Indian Squaw Moccasin Seller Crossing the St. Lawrence River at Quebec, oil paintings by Cornelius Krieghoff

Okay I admit I was getting out of breath on this pulsing Quest, and content to let all the fit, able and certain to disappear from view. Not merely age but uncertainty took advantage of this fallen log to review why I had kept running. This was a quest for the young, fit and be-fitting.

Quest2016 Wk3

I thought I was definitely getting deeper into the bowl of clarity. I had dismissed the claims of my past, and paused on the cusp of a new direction. That was going to forge a new book appropriate to someone of my age- the saga that would explore not only my life, straddling Africa and Europe but, more importantly, the patterns that apply to any family working through damage (and thereby effecting more of it): Karma writ large through generations. We choose our family, and working out why might have relevance for all families perceiving patterns. Mine is quite a story.

No sooner resolved to stride out than roped back by a sudden interest in the book already written. The one I was resolved to abandon to its floating fate!

It seems to me this Quest 2016 ( the extended New Year Resolution) is not unlike on-line dating but with  ONESELF.

The small self lays out a profile :’ I am nearly 75, I am tired, I wrote two books I was compelled to write. I have been a dismal failure in getting either to market. I cannot proselytize  but I am a good writer. Plus points: I know how to work; I am able with words; I have time. Minus points:I have nothing to offer but ideas. They are not practical, no ‘doable lists’, no obvious applications for any kind of tribe. Yet they drive me like an over-stoked steam engine, and seem to excite others.’

First response, the larger SELF who emails ‘You don’t have to remember 75, your failure could be addressed by diligent discipline, and besides, we had an important message which you are willing to abandon. If you admit to failure then why not address the reasons for it’. (Schoolmarm, not seductive).

Small self ‘ I have perhaps five years of mentally creative life. Are you saying I should no longer create, but flog a book, expensively rebrand it and possibly waste all time and money, in case my/our earlier failure can be remedied? Is it not possible the acclaimed book is past its sell by date?’

SELF ‘How will you know one way or the other, if you don’t?

Small self  ‘ We wrote that in tandem. Does it occur to you we could be simply incompatible after years of co-existence? Can’t you bless my freedom?’

SELF  I could bless it, but you can’t. (Or you would not be pleading with me). But you are stuck with me, whatever you decide.

Small self; We could meet for a drink and talk?

SELF Just do the homework first, and ask a few opinions. Other voices? You never know what you think until you can disagree.When you began you said you would listen-so listen.

You Questers are the jury in this trial of strength. I put it to you.

In answer to Charlie Gilkey’s Which element of your best work do you most want to amplify this year? #amplify

Amplify? What?

Involution-An Odyssey (OK Not the greatest title but that’s what comes of listening to ‘authorities’) was my best work then. Is it still?

Anyone minded to help me decide can have a free ecopy of this book. It may soon disappear! ( Just securely provide your email address through Mailchimp by subscribing to either of my websites. It would be a pleasure to send it. Here is one top right corner to subscribe) And here is the other ( see follow PHI lippa on main menu) You can always un-follow! This is no hook towards anything else.

Choice ONE So called Magnum Opus (Involution -An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God) which would be

  1. a) Republished (with a new title) as it is by a market savvy ‘publisher’ who asks $3000 to relaunch Involution. He has not read it but proposes to ‘re-edit’ something as fused as a honeycomb. I would have to podcast, write articles, blog only about this book. It would absorb all energy.( Padre Jeffrey says you cannot sell a book, except on the back of the PERSON!- Old squaw on log?)
  1. b) A publisher of poetry who wants to extract the poetic narrative journey through Western thought and leave the science contained within it to be detected by the perceptive. They can then download the scientific notes for free. This would be with the help of a committed but small scale company I trust and in very good poetic company. Exceeding generous and exceeding tempting!


So: To Todd Henry’s question: It takes bravery to know your strengths and operate diligently within them. Are you running your race, or someone else’s? #BraveRace

Involution was absolutely my race, and nobody else’s. What now seems to be on the table are more suggestive of other people’s races ( My book dressed in their concept)  So instead of a) above shall I settle for b) and then

  1. Embark on
  1. a) Writing a screenplay ( taken from a completed novel) that underpins what led to the writing of Involution. I know nobody in films or production. It might nudge a new understanding (a fresh pair of boots to the weary field?) Or I could throw out the novel as it stands.To be equally unsold.
  1. b) Write an entirely new and extended memoir that provides a portrait of what divides the Antipodean (Africa) from the European (England) This would offer rich characters, ripe situations, a deeper philosophy, and get my own house in order. Rather like this extended resolution, life passing before the eyes of the (slowly) dying? It includes George Eliot in an interesting new guise and her anniversary comes up in three years. Some publisher might bite?


Finally from Jen Louden What’s the story you most desire to bring to life in 2016?   

What’s the story your just-right client most desires to bring to life in 2016?

Where do your two stories overlap

Formulating the three words that occupy that blue ground I found these: Reconciliation, Revitalisation and Creation. What I decide needs all of them.

Clearly the African memoir lights me up the most in answer to  Creation

But in consideration of my just right client (that would be my readers and those who help to find them) it seems the relaunched Involution would be pressing its Reconciliation nose against the window. Not sure it is waving Revitalisation?

Where do they overlap? This is less clear. I can only suggest it might be telling two stories simultaneously. Writing one while steering another, which probably means running with the publisher of the poetry who will allow me the time to write creatively. Nearly there!

The small self seeks for more creation, the larger SELF still wags an admonishing finger.  Jeffrey’s recent caveat that one’s best work might not necessarily be the most ‘pleasurable’. More duty?

Please help get me off these ropes!

And a very Happy New Year to all fellow travellers.



Quest 2016 Drumming for the Tribe?

Reconciliation as the Theme of a life reflected in very varied books.

Aren’t words the devil? Dangerous too. I confess I recoil from all these buzz words like ‘tribe’, ‘brand’ ‘platform’ and even ‘quest’. They seem to position each of us with a loudhailer spitting in the wind. But give them a subtext, as Jeffrey does with ‘running with’ and suddenly the tribe is flashing through thin woods in moccasins in hot pursuit of a meal, a fire, and maybe ultimately rest among cheerful companions.

I confessed how reluctant I was to hail. But having accepted that conical amplifier and hardly before I put lips to mouthpiece the Cosmos took over.

(Don_Quixote) by Daumier

Now I have written a book, much maligned as weighty, or erudite, ( it is in fact light-hearted and irreverent) about the synchronicity of thought and event, and yet it still surprises me when its timing is immaculate and instantaneous. No sooner had I joined this new ‘tribe’ to take stock of where I stood then my past knocked me over, fairly viciously. I had to terminate its claims, and I did. The past was now another country.

Into the cold winds of a new and undefined freedom , and after three years of being wholly ignored I received within the week the attention of two publishers both suddenly interested in THE BOOK. One for its ‘literature’, the other for its ‘philosophy’. So the baby may not need to be discarded with the bathwater?

I read this as the Cosmos claiming the book and wresting it out of my hands. Nothing may happen with either of these but the message has been taken. No book belongs to the author, anymore than a child belongs to its mother.

Chris Brogan’s Quest 2016 prompt

How will you better clarify whom you serve and what you do for them in 2016? #Serve

All is now being ‘better clarified’. Involution was ‘addressed’ to entirely the wrong audience, the closed world of conservative, suspicious science. It was written as poetry to appeal to their hearts, but scientists don’t allow themselves a heart when evaluating a new theory based on experience, not even the experiences of their own geniuses! Especially when those solid hypotheses are losing gravitas, and shown to be crumbling. They will shore up, rather than ride a wrecking ball. I tend to be seen as a wrecking ball, however quietly I speak in dulcet imagery.

So its audience will be unlikely to be found in academic circles, unless it is the students facing the disappointment of such closed minds. Both these publishers believed in a different audience, and what that clarified was the broken lance. A kind friend who knows me and it well offered to remove all windmills and said I could call her Sancho.

Then when an embryonic and sobered modesty was ready to settle for something less ambitious and I was deliberating the matter of three fountains ( three possible books)…and which would make the most of the few years left, two things (again in synchrony) conspired to narrow attention. Yesterday a fellow Quester Suzanne Petersen Chriastiansen answered my appeal but unconsciously. She quoted most generously from a short story of mine she had read and said it .’brought back memories of all the beautiful Earthy books I grew up with like Cry thy Beloved Country or Kringe in a Bos…I especially love the African muse in the Afrikaans language… all African books have the thread of EARTHyness running through them…THAT is what I miss the most…and my thoughts are driven by me – or driving me? towards a new project’ . We Africans never shake its dust from our feet.

This observation fell like rain on parched ground.

I had bridged the great divide between Europe and Africa, and her longing had recognised it. Bridging the divides has always dominated precisely because ways to reconcile them has been the central search in myself, and my family which was to be explored in what now has a working title ‘The Tribe of Strong Women’.

With her comment arrived a book I had ordered weeks ago called ‘Every Writer has a Thousand Faces’. IT is a slim gem. David Beispiel ( the name could not be more apt to his message) suggests one should delay starting any writing as long as possible, and instead lay out an arbitrary ‘palette of words’. They will suggest themselves. Let the unconscious select what they point towards, and ultimately shape. The book has already been written, and the role of the writer is as scribe.

That seems as good an answer to Chris Brogan as I can find. The unconscious is the field we all share. All I can contribute is the vocabulary and I hope some sherbet humour, and interesting synchronicities. Forty five years ago I sought to ‘serve’ science. It has taken me almost to the end of my life to accept that was not the plan. Perhaps the plan is now simply to harvest the debris of experiences that spanned the divides, and find words for longing. It is what unites us all, and we shape it uniquely. If my drum is audible it will be heard by the longing heart.

Have another picture.   Less despairing, getting there.          DonQuixote2

“Honoré Daumier 017 (Don Quixote)” by Honoré Daumier – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

“Don Quixote 5”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Quest 2016 Payoff?

I wonder whether anybody else on the Quest2016 feels as though the questions are first grade reminders to get the basics lined up? List the mind mapping, colour code and re-apply them when we get to the problems of the differential calculus. Ducks in a row.

I am not complaining but feeling a little foolish that it should be necessary. I saddled up, pulled down a visor and set off at a gentle canter until I found the lists, and expected to be at full gallop. Instead the mount is lame and I have broken the lance of positive thrust and we head back to the stable. It seems all the others are making solid progress towards the grand finale and the ribbons. I will just use the curry comb and keep the company of the horses. Nothing is better company or better perfumed.


I could not answer this from Sally Hogshead

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

Of these 3 options, which one is most important in your work right now:

  • Quality of life
  • Quality of work
  • Quality of compensation 

until I had attended to this from John Jantsch

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What can you stop doing in 2016 such that it would allow you to focus on higher payoff activities? #Payoff

and I cannot deal with that either, because all that indecision about fountains and which to spring water has not yet found an underground source. But let us suppose I am a model student and pretend to keep up. The quality of work, or any work at all has stalled, but I know to resume I need to live more joyfully, and work more joyfully. The two are inextricably bound together, but truth to tell I don’t find much joy in anything right now, not food, not my garden withdrawing into winter and shivering, not things that never meant much unless they were reassigned to new purposes and triumphed over poverty, by bloody mindedness. Not even the evening glass, insufficiently earned. I am comforted by my few very good friends who I try to spare gloom or complaint, yes to Beethoven who spills out the memory of boundless joy like a distant evocation, an echo of the hope that once was boundless, energising, shared.  I decided today which of his late quartets I would like played when I am dying. Don’t mistake that as macabre or defeat. THAT feels like joy. My cello sits un-played but I cannot bring myself to sell it. It symbolises the silenced past shadowed in its case. C’est moi.

Perhaps what is ‘most important’ is that I am old and tired, and should just accept it?

Please sir. Can I answer these questions next term? If I remember they could be important? If there is a next term?

mage: By Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Quest 2016. A Future? Which one?

Week one blew away the past. A tsunami concentrated its power on the shack I occupied, and I discovered wattle and daub dissolves.

Week two I think was meant to re-align a future by reassembling components, envisioning pavilions of peace, and planting thyme for aromas of permanence. I tried, but failed. Here’s why.

Quest week2

In examining what Olderwiser might have to say in a years time I got permission to ‘lose myself creatively’. Great. Run with that. No daydreams were possible. At my age that’s kinda silly. What was I doing that would cause me to be missed? That purple patch? Reconciled by writing the life ( as in memoir) that might explore the repetitive patterns within any family that remain unseen but destructive. A sort of re-assembly from the debris on the beach. The figurehead toppled slantwise was George Eliot about whom I know what nobody else does, and why she snaked through stories nobody believed. I discovered in the recesses of the British Library my grandmother spoke the truth and it explained why we had a first edition of Daniel Deronda signed by GE and inscribed to a great great aunt.

Relating to? A new audience? How different? My own memory rather than the memory of evolution that nobody reads. It is also the anniversary of George Eliot in 2019. For once madame is faintly commercially aware.

I thought I was doing well. Two feet forward.

Yesterday a major monsoon.

I received a phone call from a publisher urging me to let him have sight of THE book (currently called Involution-thanks to another authority I listened to!) with an eye to republishing! Under a different title. Maybe also to write a screenplay from the novel describing why it is not as insane as it might appear. Could I run to regular podcasting? Just three times a week?

Now after four years of averted eyes, and ‘poor thing’ it was , I admit, very affirming. Any author would leap for joy. I did at the time (yesterday pm). Then I realised that having destroyed my house I would be blown over by any wind. Maybe this was just a squall?

Last night I had a dream. I was looking down on the entrance to a slightly scruffy house with certain potential. At the gate were three fountains, one noble marble catching the sun, one a zinc tub and the third a kind of water barrel. My first thought was ‘what a pity, they all detract from one another. It only needs one’ Who in their right mind would…?


So which is the fountain to keep? Which is the right mind? Until I can answer this I cannot answer the current question from John Jantsch.

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What can you stop doing in 2016 such that it would allow you to focus on higher payoff activities? #Payoff

I genuinely seek advice from this perceptive group. I cannot manage both together. Undoubtedly if THE book (re-titled) reached more readers it would seem more marble than zinc. It would take every bit of energy and time. But is that the marble? Is an idea, however crafted, more solid than a life of experience?  I am at a loss which way to turn. All opinions would be welcome!

Quest 2016: Who Would Miss You When You’re Gone?

Your Quest2016 Prompt today: Seth Godin

Would they miss you if you were gone?

What would have to change for that question to lead to a better answer? #MissMe

This imperative interruption to a day that envisaged some creative application to a new book hooks me to answer.It saw me coming and set up a trip-wire. I still have difficulty ‘opening out’ the painful parts of life, not because I cannot confront them, but do wonder why they would be of interest to anyone else.(see nervous joiner!) So I will continue the dialogue with Olderwiser and keep it pithy.

Olderwiser ‘Who do you know that might or might not miss you?’

Plumscared. ‘Small, very small clutches. A few friends, mostly writers, and almost all virtual (so I would disappear with the speed of a twitter feed); a few readers (very few- who don’t know me anyway) and my daughters. Of those you might expect me to say my daughters would be likely to miss me. One would be devastated and until she would not be, I have to somehow stay alive. It’s a heavy responsibility! Two have rejected me for twenty years and I do not even know their children one of whom is eighteen. The fourth and youngest might miss me but I suspect not for very long, because she knows so little about me, although in some ways we are much alike. She has never read a story ,a book or a blog post, (or visited me on Facebook). She really knows so little about the inner, celebratory, honouring me. She only knows the questioning critic, the puritan.’

Olderwiser  ‘What would they miss? If they did.’

Plumscared  ‘The one that would, would miss her closest friend. We talk. About everything, share grief, celebrate joy. The two who might not even know I’d gone would perhaps miss the pleasure of inflicting a lot of pain, and the realisation that with my death, their family died with me. I hold all the memories of where they came from, and what could enrich their children’s history and identity. It would be buried.

The one, who might or might not, would miss returning home. She is currently sailing away, but might recall the reasons she turned her back. I know she finds it difficult having so much money, when I neither respect wealth, nor value what it affords. On that we lock horns. She indulges ( and can almost limitlessly) by helping very wealthy CEO’s become wealthier, while her sister squirrels to survive teaching the violin, playing it, and worrying about each and every pupil’s chances, and working in a pub to eat.

I cannot manage to obscure what I feel about the injustice of the world’s values, or how easily she accepts them. So she stays away, and I have had to let her go, but I know in the part of herself that is not materialistic we could be very close. We used to share mimicry, laughter and it seems to have disappeared. She used to be very funny. I miss that terribly.

One of those private moments for sisters
One of those private moments for sisters

Olderwiser ‘Now to the point of this. What would have to change to lead to a better answer?’

Plumscared. The history that cannoned though the landscape of my family and scarred it irrevocably is past. Only the devastation remains. Obviously the chasm lies ‘between’ and who I am, or what I might do, is the only part I can do something about.

Options: I could turn into a dog and lick whatever hand was held out? Unconditional love without judgement? That is what the Dalai Lama might say. It is theoretically possible but getting bitten accounts for the ‘plumscared’. Every time a bleeding throat and matted fur. Perhaps loving is also acceptance, and knowing when to surrender hope, and do something else without any? Ticked off last week.

I could turn actor, play Uriah Heep and pretend to approve what I can’t.  I could become a deaf-mute and hear, see and speak no evil and wring my hands appropriately. I would not be a natural, doubt I’d convince.

Or I could succumb to Alzheimer’s and forget and be grateful. (That is a distinct possibility and seems anxious to start. Forgetfulness improves daily without practice.) I could accept visits without recognising, or flinching, and be grateful for the nice box of chocolates.

Or I could write another book but this time one that dealt directly with the family they spurned, for the children I shall never know. It might help me to understand too.

Maybe, after that, if I do it well, a few might miss the chance they had to know me, the daughter’s children would get a kind of history- not absorbed as supper table talk, but something. It’s a way of talking to an absent family for both me and my loving daughter, who will be my cleanest and most honest critic. The readers might like another book of a different kind about George Eliot who comes into it, and Africa at the turn of the century, and the richest of galleon grandmothers with prejudices strong enough to break teeth in a plum pudding saga. What’s not to like?

That was what I was planning to start when this question interrupted. So if its okay with you I’ll just get on?

George Eliot (1819-1880)

Samuel Laurence [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The Wisdom of My Future Self

Tracking Wonder’s Dr.Tina Selig gives the new nudge. I could not begin to address this until I had absorbed last week’s bucketing ride. Still kicked by a mule and reeling but look ma, I’m ready. A bit out of breath!

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What advice would your future self a year from now give you today? #FutureSelf

Olderwiser ‘I wondered if you’d show up’
Plumscared  ‘I nearly didn’t. But fire away’
Olderwiser   ‘ You can choose what has been chosen, or run’
Plumscared   ‘What’s been chosen?’
Olderwiser   ‘ You want to lose yourself. You chose that years ago. Still                                   haven’t obeyed it. It’s getting rather impatient.’
Plumscared  ‘That’s certainly true. I was busy.’
Olderwiser   ‘Creative work is the only way. Thinking ‘about’ won’t do it.                              Thinking ‘of’ might.’
Plumscared  ‘But which work? So many options?’
Olderwiser  ‘You have done duty. What’s wrong with pleasurable work? It                            will pleasure you, and may pleasure others’
Plumscared. ‘ I have an idea…’
Olderwiser  ‘ I’d start there, and without delay. Time is not on your side,                              but I may be able to to do something about that. Leave time to me.’
Plumscared  ‘Ta’
Olderwiser   ‘No worries?’
Plumscared. ‘Deal’.

Quest2016 A Synthesis Journey


In a week I have travelled quite a long way. The other night I had a dream in which I was in a barred cage, and contemplated how I might escape it. Outside was sunlit grass, inside a naked floor under a covering cloth of darkness, the darkness of fear and self doubt. I took hold of two bars and found that I could part them with little effort and simply step out: the cage of myself.

Jeffrey’s invitation was to synthesize the common overlap between the three question. My first answer was to listen no longer to my own voice but what others ( and life itself) were telling me. (I am over familiar with the repetitive and bullying injunctions of my thuggish mind.’You ought, you should, and never shall you rest’) The next day I received a letter, a wild dog attack from my eldest daughter’s partner. I will spare you the content but just give the context. I have not had any contact with my daughter for seventeen years, all letters ignored, all overtures rebuffed.I have never met what might have been my grandchildren. I came face to face with the bars of that cage, it was the lingering hope of restoration.

What parted the bars was the end of such hope. The letter revealed such hatred that I had to recognise the past could never be restored, and never would be. Mother was over. I wrote a letter of farewell, and stepped through and into a different future.

Quest Week One

To the second question of how to devote a year committed to one question, I answered with a sense of liberty and time for what might prove rewarding by trying to plumb the answer to Shakespeare’s perennial and unending vitality. I would put into practice what I learnt by finishing a play.

It wasn’t until I answered the third of what would you commit to if you knew it couldn’t fail that the wheel came round full circle. Shakespeare was playing safe, and writing a play that couldn’t fail was terrifying, because it would be devalued by that condition, so it couldn’t really succeed either! I then realised that my cage had been constructed from the fear of other people precisely because my daughters’ rejection had injured self confidence fatally. Regaining it required me to ‘go public’ as an identity, as a writer, but mostly as vulnerable, and nakedly released.

Being a good mother was one thing I believed I had managed. Managing a divorce was predicated on that first and only imperative. Building a home for the united children (4) of two marriages, and having the ex and his new wife to stay frequently was part of that imperative and the generosity of my husband in accepting that demand was also an acceptance of the domination of ‘motherhood’ , although he did it with great generosity, and never distinguished between his and another man’s daughters. To ensure this continued he named my ex husband as his first child’s godfather  should the worst happen to us. We thought we had done it differently, and no harm could come.

What we could not influence happened later and severed us all completely. This week hope died.

What lies in the centre at the intersection, the purple patch?  It may come back to the play, whether for stage or not. Being seen not for a clever idea, but a deeper kind of truth, the dynamic intersection between an individual and the role we clothe ourselves to perform. I shall cast off an outworn motherhood, more than threadbare now, so tattered I wonder how it clothed me for all these years of hope, and turn towards writing what I know personally, maybe a memoir, maybe a portrait of my earlier family that generated the desire to raise lots of loving children (I had no father and no siblings and longed for companions) and within whatever it turns out to be find something universal. At this time of Christmas the ‘Family’ is a heaven, but can equally be a hell. Time to explore.