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 free public lectures.

Knowledge:
Like building
Blocks of courage
Or planting sleepy seeds
That sprout in the Spring
And crowd out all the weeds
That spoon-fed schools and students bring
To the table of the best and brightest
On which the world is remade, reshaped each generation,
With knowledge turned to wisdom by the tiniest to mightiest.

I’m grateful for forgiveness.

Flower

“He who is forgiven much loves much, but he who forgives little loves little.” – an interpretation of Luke 7:47

I am by no means a religious person, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I think there are timeless spiritual lessons and much eternal wisdom to be learned from texts that have been revered through the ages. This particular verse struck me almost dumb (clearly, the opinionated part of me recovered quickly), as I realised that in all this struggle and questing to find and discover love, self-love, myself, and the best in others, one huge essential lesson I have been dodging and dreading is forgiveness.

I have been awful at forgiveness, both of myself and of others. Hurt has always cut me very deeply, and the memory of pain is incredibly visceral; like digital copies of moments in time. My friends can testify to my vivid memory. What they can’t really see is how raw the lashes of hurt remain and for how long.

Of course, I do forgive some things and some people more easily than others. I suppose it is like that for everyone, depending on each person’s particular deep vulnerabilities and wounds.

But I want to be good at love. There was a time when I was simply overflowing with it, and had plenty of love to give. And I want to be good at life. And I think that no one can be good at either without learning when it’s time to drop the weights and lighten the load– no more self-punishment, no more punishing the other person, and no more resentment and hatred. I don’t know why it is so difficult to let go of things in the past, of our images of who we are based on a moment in time. I think it’s that bad habit of letting negative bias, ego and pride run the show that makes us stew in resentment, anger and vengefulness.

And remember: there is always, always more than one side to a story.

Picture attribution: Attribution Some rights reserved by juliejordanscott.

I’m grateful for wise bosses.

Well, most of the time.

Some of the things that have resonated in my head and heart and stuck with me through the years as eternal wisdom have come from some of my most inspiring bosses and supervisors along the way. Two supervisors, both in different workplaces– Ann and Jacqueline– are two of the most capable, steady and stable women I have ever met, and to this day I admire their earthiness and leadership skill. Some other pearls of wisdom from bosses that I reach for whenever I face a relevant situation or decision:

“Praise in public and criticise in private. That’s class. Class must be practiced; it can’t be bought.”
~Jeanne, when I was 25.

“You only have your youth once. Be sure that you spend it doing what you are passionate about or at least are interested in. Make sure you spend it doing what you want to do or something that leads to it. You will never get these years back.”
~Christina, when I was 24.

“Brutal honesty only serves to maim. A child can be brutally honest. Tact requires maturity.”
~Jennifer, when I was 19.