Sitting here, at the back of the near empty class room, most of the afternoon, working on my computer, reading the paper…just sitting. Being a needed presence to my daughter writing thus far the most difficult two exams. Not really being of much help to the distress that has been present all day about not being well, not being prepared enough, being tired from the already intense week of exams, from the fatigue and pain of the week of sitting, studying, writing, demands beyond the real capacity of a frail body and mind. Knowing, however, the power of presence, and experiencing its value anew through the act of my just simple being here. Giving up everything else for just this being present. How powerful this simple presence can be. Knowing the importance of staying present as the strong undertow and current washes past one. (..see my last post)
I am struck again today by how we cannot exist without a holding container of love and support. How many of us falter on the road without community, family, without a necessary felt sense of being loved. My own mother, after WW2 ended, returned to high school and struggled to regain the level she was at before. Before the war she was a top achiever. The war, with its German occupation of Alsace dictated that all schooling be done in German, interrupted much of her high schooling. Then when school recommenced it was changed back overnight again to French. My mother found herself not the top achiever anymore. Few at home seemed to care whether she finished her schooling or not. Getting the family industry with the vineyards and wine making back on track was a greater priority. No one really noticed when she no longer went back to school. For me this really meant her own mother did not really notice, the sadness and pain of this momentary neglect, however, unintentional, or unaware. Her parents, caught up a bitter relationship struggle and eventual divorce. She started working in the home and the vineyards everyday. There was enough work to be done, but little by little that dynamic also changed. Her brother got married. The balance of power shifted. Her brother became the dominant male in the family. There were too many women around and my mother found herself with a small packed suitcase at the train station one day on her way to work in a home in Zurich. A lovely elderly couple she worked for but the dreams she had for herself as a young girl were not those of being housekeeper. Eventually she moved back closer to home and worked as assistant to a psychiatrist. A female psychiatrist. And through the telling of stories from this time my own dreams as a young girl started. Dreams that girls could be more than wives, mothers, and assistants. They could be professionals too. In fact as I got older I understood they could be anything they wanted to be. Perhaps today these may seem like self evident dreams to girls and women that grow up in modern developed countries, in cities, with examples aplenty. But still, everyday, in my work life, I see the power of example, of mentorship, of modeling strength and courage to young girls struggling to dream that their lives can be better, can be more than dominated by poverty, patriarchy, struggle, and pain.
In the unfolding of my dreams I have also come to learn how they can be constrained. How the constant drag and pull of the currents and pressure of life pushes one in a certain direction at times. How unconsciously we often live our lives. I certainly did for many years. It has taken me many more to wake up. To understand the moment to moment choices of each day. To meet the moments as they arise and be present. And in this meeting I understand too that my total presence and commitment to this moment is what is needed. That I need to show up in a way that I haven’t always. That I need to choose to be here. That choice means that some things, such as at times the needs of our children, take precedence over any other needs, whether they be personal or work related. Many months ago I had thought this year would be easier. But life’s meandering path had other plans for my life and it proceeded to uncover a year of love, joy, suffering, and difficulty, that even I could not have conceived of in my wildest dream. So here I stand this day, as every. Showing up, being present, paying attention to what is calling to the heart of this moment.
My apologies for the meandering nature of my posts this week. They only reflect the nature of my day, my heart, and my life. May you meander through yours with an openness to whatever may show up that has heart and meaning and give you joy, even amidst the presence of difficulty and pain.
I have had two themes this year that have followed me through every moment.
The first one comes lately out of meeting many strong women who seem to have understood before me (granted they are somewhat older and wiser than me) that life is tough, and needs to taken on with some humour and rebellion. Although the rebellion bit I have always had a handle on! So the first mantra of us older women is..
“Just f—k it!!”
Apologies if you are shocked. If you don’t get this, don’t worry, your time will come! Mine did.
The second theme for me is by Angeles Arrien and is as constant as the afternoon thunderstorms at the moment and has helped me navigate the currents of this year so far.
Show up and choose to be present
Pay attention to what has heart and meaning
Tell the truth without blame or judgment
Be open to, not attached, to all outcome
Enjoy the attached. May it bring a smile to you this day.
The Cookie Thief
A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shops,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,
That the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be.
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.
So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,
As the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”
With each cookie she took, he took one too,
When only one was left, she wondered what he would do.
With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other,
She snatched it from him and thought…oooh, brother.
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude!
She had never known when she had been so galled,
And signed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,
Refusing to look back at that thieving ingrate.
She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,
Then sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise,
There was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.
If mine are here, she moaned with despair,
The others were his, and he tried to share.
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.
by Valerie Cox