Advent Day 5: Lessons in when to walk away.

walking-away

If you don’t have the courage or strength to walk away when a situation isn’t good for you,
you will always be someone’s doormat. 

These aren’t mine. These are from other people who learnt their lessons earlier than I did. I think, this year, I’ve finally learnt these lessons, too, the hard way.

  • Never lose yourself while trying to hold on to someone who doesn’t care about losing you.
  • Knowing when to walk away is wisdom. Being able to is courage. Walking away with your head held high is dignity.
  • One of the hardest decisions you will ever face in life is choosing whether to try harder or walk away.
  • When someone treats you like an option, help them narrow their choices by removing yourself from the equation. It’s that simple.
  • The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away.

I’m grateful for the lessons in knowing when to walk away. They were awful and humiliating sometimes, but they were largely my own fault (and who hasn’t listened to their own gut instinct or dismissed their own needs at some point in their life?) and they were necessary. Because they were part of my learning to let things go.


Picture attribution: Modified from Elephant Journal.

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I’m grateful for experience and perspective.

It has taken a long time to learn to stand on my on side, and be proud of who I am. I was always “too” something: “too sensitive”, “too emotional”, “too shy”, “too talkative”, “too busy”, “too dreamy”, “too careless” (which made me terrible at mathematics, apparently), “too scattered”…. but along the way, one learns that any judgement that begins with “too” really is completely semantic (a liberal arts education can either screw you up or transform your consciousness… it usually does both).

Because every human being is a process; and in every minute is the potential to change. Sometimes it’s a sudden shift in one’s consciousness; sometimes it’s something someone says to us (See I’m grateful for wise bosses for examples… they may seem obvious or inconsequential, but they changed the way I did things, the way I was, the way I made decisions in one single instant), sometimes something tragic happens (a loved one dies, someone gets critically ill)… sometimes, all our little, collected, stray bits and wisps of experience, learning, secondhand learning, etc., all come together and fit, like a little Tetris puzzle. And then everything clicks and becomes clear as Gorilla Glass. And you know, suddenly, you just know, that there is no going back to the way you were just a minute before. Because that you is just an empty place now, where the Tetris rows have zapped and disappeared.

I could not have written a poem that conveys a classic growing up story very simply and poignantly (one day, I may get there!), so I shall use someone else’s words. This is one of the poems I found in my much-loved, well-worn ‘O’ Levels poetry compilation, that I loved very much when I was 15, and as much now:

NURSERY RHYME OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE

Charles Causley (1917 – 2003)

I had a silver penny
And an apricot tree
And I said to the sailor
On the white quay

‘Sailor O sailor
Will you bring me
If I give you my penny
And my apricot tree

‘A fez from Algeria
An Arab drum to beat
A little gilt sword
And a parakeet?’

And he smiled and he kissed me
As strong as death
And I saw his red tongue
And I felt his sweet breath

‘You may keep your penny
And your apricot tree
And I’ll bring your presents
Back from sea.’

O the ship dipped down
On the rim of the sky
And I waited while three
Long summers went by

Then one steel morning
On the white quay
I saw a grey ship
Come in from sea

Slowly she came
Across the bay
For her flashing rigging
Was shot away

All round her wake
The seabirds cried
And flew in and out
Of the hole in her side

Slowly she came
In the path of the sun
And I heard the sound
Of a distant gun

And a stranger came running
Up to me
From the deck of the ship
And he said, said he

‘O are you the boy
Who would wait on the quay
With the silver penny
And the apricot tree?

‘I’ve a plum-coloured fez
And a drum for thee
And a sword and a parakeet
From over the sea.’

‘O where is the sailor
With bold red hair?
And what is that volley
On the bright air?

‘O where are the other
Girls and boys?
And why have you brought me
Children’s toys?’

I’m grateful for my path.

I love being at this point in life.

It’s when you have enough strength to bear your sensitivity, to wear your personality, to choose your feelings and responses, to walk away from situations that do not suit you, to say “no”, to say “yes”, to say “if you don’t like me, you can leave”.

It’s when you have enough exposure to visit a new city and walk confidently, to start a new job and walk tall.

It’s when you feel so peaceable and whole, you no longer have the craving to shop and buy new things to fill a hole, or to escape into a television series.

It’s when you are so good at enjoying your own company that you can love your friends and family much better because you no longer need them to tell you who you are and what you’re worth.

It’s when you are experienced enough to make a decision that is good for YOU without needing everyone else to approve it, or feeling like you must justify it.

It’s when you are solid enough to look disapproval, judgement and rejection in the face and hold on to everything, giving away none of your sense of self-worth.

It’s when you are secure and stable enough to see someone clearly and love them anyway.

It does not make you invincible. It does not stop the tears. It does not give you any more control over what happens to you in life. But it gives you a moment of reprieve; a moment of mercy, kindness, grace.

This was earned. That’s why it’s precious. And I’m grateful I was given this journey, this path, and no other.

I’m grateful for my parents’ sacrifices.

When I first read today’s NaPoWriMo prompt, I immediately shut down and decided not to do it because I knew it would be an emotional experience. But then I remembered a moment that has stayed with me for many years, and I wanted to get it down on paper. Here is today’s prompt:

Today I challenge you to write a poem in the voice of a member of your family. This can be a good way to try to distance yourself from your own experience, without reaching so far away from your own life that it’s hard to come up with specific, realistic details.

There she goes, my girl, my only girl.
She looks twelve, though her passport says sixteen.
She’s so small; so determined, stubborn, keen.
She chose this, but does she know
It means we’ll miss the rest of
Her childhood years, her Mum and I?
It’s a fork in the road, a path
Away from us. In the blink of an eye,
She will be in graduation dress
Then probably another, because
I know my daughter.
I taught her to sail, you know,
But it was not her dream, and
Nothing will make this girl do
What she doesn’t want to.
But when she wants to do something,
Experience something,
Be good at something,
She’s a force of nature,
Like the sea that raised her.
My water baby is taking to the skies,
To a redder pasture Down Under.
Her mother has tears in her eyes,
And I hold back mine.
She needs to know we are fine.
She needs to find her own wings.
I know she’ll be all right;
We raised her sensible, responsible,
And we handed down that stubbornness
That I think will keep her safe and true.
There she goes, through the boarding gate…
To forge her own path.
So early… so soon…
She’s mine and not mine any more,
My girl, my only girl.

I’m grateful for the ability to express myself (3/3).

I will lose myself in this world.
In this culturally free-wheeling
Dealing, needling, bustling
Insane international realm.
I will lose myself in you.
Just for a second.
Like Pandora and Ophelia
Rolled up and wrapped
In a baby-blue rag
That universal tragic
Pagan girl of the world.
In this place, all walk on knife-edges.
Alors! I shall pick my favourite
Escape, my favourite excuse
To cling to a slipping dream.
Bravery/recklessness…

Or… perhaps… hope/delusion?
Or simple illusion.
But this world is cloudy, silver crystal
The hard, brittle pinnacle of human arrogance.
I shall pick my favourite hazard then,
In a castle of shadows and stories and dim light.

I pick you.

I’m grateful for the ability to express myself (2/3).

There is no God; we are all alone,
Abandoned in this wretched place;
All our efforts illusions; our graces
Simply contrived, desperate clinging
To colonial civility, an earthly domination,
Abomination,
In a crumbling, failing, burning human empire
A suicidal force slamming up against
The natural order, paper umbrella in hand
Cocktail glass in the other
We seek the superficial because the alternative is
Madness.


I’m grateful for the ability to express myself (1/3).

love

For quite a long period of time, I was feeling things I just couldn’t put into words; couldn’t vocalise, couldn’t write. There was this sense of just not being able to write from my heart, because my heart had put up a nuclear plant worthy wall of cement around it and sat there, shaking its head obstinately, giving everyone the silent treatment. And I just didn’t want to. Nothing flowed. Years went by like this until my heart finally decided it had had its rest and solitude, and now it wanted to talk about it. This is what it said.

There is no path back to innocence;
You ride this road to hell or glory
Or, most dire, the shades in between.
You cannot undo, unsay, unfeel…
And worst, worst of all, you can
Never unsee what has been seen.
It plays like a film in your head,
Worn-thin from the need of the addict
Like that hit of an addiction,
The rich, dark lure of an obsession
Then a natural death.
Everything burns itself out
Like a jingle. The sort you want to kill.


Picture Attribution: Some rights reserved by *_Abhi_*