My grandma lived on an island and the only way to reach her cottage was over a long causeway. But every childhood visit was heightened by the expectation of making it across. High tide, bad weather, jellyfish blooms-well not really but in my imagination they swarmed-rendered crossing the causeway impassable as it lay beneath the murk of the sea.
Causeways link two distinct places, island to island, island to mainland, one land mass to another. But unlike bridges they are far more vulnerable to the elements and forces of nature. If the tide was high it was a long wait in the car until the cold grey waters of East Anglia receded enough so we could cross.
Sometimes the links between thoughts and actions are firm and definable like bridges. You can cross back and forth as you please. But sometimes they are like navigating causeways. You have to wait for conditions to be right.
The desire to cross a predictable bridge with swift passage from A to B is strong, well-trodden, easy. But so often these aren’t the roads we face. The times we are in find me waiting for the tide to go down and to be accepting of that. Around me are the flat damp mud flats of the mainland, across the causeway and through the jellyfish is the light of a cottage.
I’ll get there but it’ll take a bit longer than expected. ©
There Are No Words
Four chunks of letters strung together
Four beads of meaning that tell us there is nothing to say
There are no words for some things
The place beneath language
Why bother to describe the hollow of despair
The home of things too unbearable to bear
So, in their absence we turn
to a wrenching sob
to a clenching hug
to the truth they were loved
A shuddered surrender to the unfathomable
There are no words.
Charlie x ©
My brother told me about a conversation he had with my niece. She wants to enter a fiercely competitive field, full of people who seem so much more qualified and suitable for it than her. He stopped her as she talked herself out of it, mid-sentence of self-doubt, mid flourish of the tendency to accept failure before we even begin. And simply said to her, ‘Why not you?’
Of course he then went on to list all the reasons why she should try, why she was as competent as the next person and so on. But it was those three words which struck me.
Most people I meet are a lot more talented, creative, hard-working and loving than they give themselves credit for. We are pretty realistic too, so often the things we aspire to are not way out of reach. If we can just make the leap of faith to try, or in some cases feel we are worthy, then who knows where we might end up.
To believe in ourselves enough to attempt the things we want is tough. There is absolutely no guarantee of ease and success. Rejection and failure happen and are good reasons not to put yourself out there. Sometimes the things we seek are not realistic but isn’t hanging onto what we can’t achieve a way to avoid what we can. Yes, the trip could be a disaster, the relationship awful and bruised with regrets, even the career you’ve worked so hard for may be full of disappointment.
But what if it wasn’t?
Want to feel that sparkle not the dread of the unknown? The glow of satisfaction that your hard work is paying off. The promise of possibility and optimism which brings us to life. The readiness to make a difference? In which case, ‘Why not you?’
‘I loved… against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.’ Charles Dickens-Great Expectations
Near where I live is a spectacular coastal cliff path. A half neglected track of rubbly rocks fringed with those tough looking shrubs which can survive howling winds and salty air. It is the perfect place to clear your head. And along the path is a lookout thrust out over the sea. For years, lovers, family and friends have attached lovelocks to the railings much like the bridges in Paris. But one day they were all gone. The lookout had been remodeled and all the lovelocks removed.
But last week I went walking along that path, some new locks had been added and it made me smile. I’d just read this quote from Great Expectations with Pip describing his feelings for Estella. Now we all know our great romantic loves and passions may not last, they may be misguided or ambushed by life, but for an instant, for a while, it is one of life’s great gifts to love another person. Lovelocks like love in real life can be removed or be transient but for a moment they are a symbol of our conviction, optimism and capacity to give of ourselves.
In a world so full of distrust and disharmony it is important to remind ourselves that love exists and is thriving. However you choose, loudly or quietly, or even with a lovelock, it is important to declare our love and promise to the people we cherish. They may be a partner, a relative, or a friend but by doing so we set an example that to live with love and hope is better than to live with fear.
The end of the year is often a time for self-reflection.
We can all be super critical of ourselves and while analysis of what we didn’t do can move us forward it can also pull us down. So in pursuit of optimism and to see 2016 out with a bang instead of a fizzle, I’ve pulled together some ways to reflect on the year with a softer, kinder lens. Take a moment to reflect on what you did do, not what you didn’t…
- I bet you loved unconditionally.
- I bet you learned things you didn’t know last year.
- I bet you have supported someone other than yourself.
- I bet you maintained, rekindled or developed a friendship which brings you joy.
- I bet you have got through a personal challenge.
- I bet you indulged yourself and didn’t feel guilty about it.
- I bet you accomplished different things than you intended.
- I bet you got knocked down but you got up.
- I bet you had a really good laugh.
- I bet you did many acts of random kindness.
- I bet you were braver than you thought you could be.
Imagine reflecting on your year as a friend would and I bet you’ve done a pretty awesome job…
Last week there was a black out in the city where I live. Plunged into darkness as the lights went out across the whole state, families and individuals had to change plans. We had to come up with inventive ways to tackle the problems of no power and ways to entertain ourselves without technology.
Once the terror of having no internet had passed, the world didn’t stop and people didn’t sit round like pumpkins waiting to be picked, on the contrary we found other things to do. Over the next few days there were stories of how families had played games together, how neighbours had rallied around the one house with a gas cooker and shared meals, how people helped strangers and the needy. It did get me thinking about why it takes an event like a power outage to make us do what we really like to do anyway; family, community, sharing.
Perhaps it’s more a question of balance. Technology makes our life easier in so many ways. Once you’ve had access to it you realise know how hard it would be to be without it. I’d wrestle any pickpocket who tried to take my smart phone. But the trick is we can, and maybe we should, put technology aside a little more often. In the blackout a lot of people went back to small pleasures, reading a book by candlelight, playing an instrument, board games with children. The fix it folk rigged up ways to heat and light homes and a lot of people went to bed earlier.
The power came back on, modern life resumed, but it showed how resourceful we can be and the entertainment we can find when we go off the grid for a little while.
She’s running on the beach, ahead of me, free.
I can’t run, I’m too old.
I can’t run, I’m too old.
The tide tumbles in, less dry sand paths between the trails of seeping sea.
Less places for lazy, sensible feet to land.
Water leaks into my shoes, cold, unwanted, wet.
I trot faster, tiptoeing, to find a way through.
Ahead of me she waves, beckoning.
A surge of eager water swamps my stubborn stride.
I can’t bear it.
The damp toes, tentative, weak little steps.
This isn’t me.
I start to run. And the sea urges me on with childish splashes of spray.
Feet are no longer quick sanded and weighted down, they’re light.
I run. I’m not too old.
I run. I’m not too old.
She waits for me, and we charge on, together.