Thank-you and many others for your responses to my question: what do you want to achieve in 2020?
I have to say I’ve enjoyed our interactions since I started this series and once again, I love your spirited response.
I don't think I want to achieve anything. Does that sound hopeless or without motivation? What I am trying to say is that achieving is like having a vision of what you want to happen...for me achieving something is pressure to perform, or accomplish.
I admire your resolution and your grounded character. I admire how comfortable you are with yourself.
How I wish I had more of that!
After reading your response I decided to probe my discomfort.
In the last few years, something has happened to make me realise that I have a use-by date. Some might say it has already passed! It’s that small voice in my head that drives me to question (and it is always about the questions)
What do I want to do with the rest of my life?
Some years ago I interviewed a British peer.
Jean Corston was raised on a council estate and left school at sixteen because her family needed the money. Her first daughter died at birth. Jean went back to her studies and became a barrister in her forties.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made her a peer in 2005 and she became the Right Honourable The Baroness Corston. After a commission to study and report on vulnerable women in the criminal justice system, she became a campaigner for women in prisons.
MaryAnne, the thing that stuck with me most about Jean Corston was something she said about the House of Lords on One Plus One. At first it seemed to her a stuffy organisation which frustrated legislation. But once she got among her new tribe she had a revelation.
I went down and found that it (the House of Lords) was for the people. They were remarkable. I began to realise that these were people who would not have stood for election but who had nothing to prove. They didn’t want anything from anybody. They were beyond ambition.
Well, I cannot say I have reached that stage yet, but I fully intend to. I intend to extend myself by creating work that’s important to me. I hope it's important for other people too. I intend to make the most of my available time to create and experience pleasure and to have purpose.
I love that you are not a people-pleaser MaryAnne:
I don't believe I have to achieve anything, prove anything, or create anything....I think I just have to show up, be willing to do whatever comes, walk through whatever door that opens, be kind and present to whoever is before me... Isn't that achieving something?
I chose an image to go with this post entitled Woman on a Tangerine Ribbon by the Chinese artist Su Xinping. I bought it nearly twenty years ago and I love it. Watching acrobats flinging ribbons across a stage, I visualise a ribbon as having two sides: shiny and matte. The slinky material throws up unexpected bumps, softens and stiffens at inconceivable moments. And yet it doesn't rest.
What I'm saying is that I don't think there is a wrong path.
MaryAnne, thank-you for your provocative and inspiring response.
I will try to post more thoughts before I go on tour with David Suchet in January. Then this series will take a break for a few months.
I want to wish you all a joyous Christmas and a healthy, vibrant 2020. Thank-you for answering my questions. You have helped me so much.
Thank-you for your responses to my question: who do you need to forgive and why?
We are told that this is the 'most wonderful time of the year' yet for many reasons, my spirit feels heavy. Our blue sky has disappeared. Far worse, people have died, lost homes and businesses as a result of the bushfires. There is no rain in sight. Across the ocean, a natural disaster has ensured that some families will mourn while we are supposed to be in the festive season.
My good friend Sarah puts it well:
Christmas is like living in a snow globe. Tensions can flare and old hurts can rise and everyone can feel pretty shaken and vulnerable at the same time as wanting the pretty scene.
Another contributor, Diana, talks about a problem that occurs more frequently than we acknowledge:
My siblings hurt me badly when they engaged a lawyer to keep me from benefitting from my mum's will even though I had been her carer for almost fourteen years. One day I may be able the reach the point of forgiveness but I am not ready (yet).
As for me, I’ve recently been on the end of some criticism that I felt was undeserved. The old desire to get back at this person on the one hand or set them straight on the other, has my brain doing thought-flips. It makes me feel anything but relaxed or festive.
And what does forgiveness really mean? Tim Goodsall asks.
I think of forgiveness as an act of compassion where you aim higher than your thoughts and feelings would have you target. Sometimes action requires the passage of time. Sometimes, you cannot bring yourself to do it. At any time, you have to live with your choice. A good question to ask yourself, as I am asking myself at the moment, is:
“Can I live with this state of mind?”
At vulnerable times like this, I lay down safety nets. I increase self-care and try to keep connections open so that I don’t feel isolated.
On the matter of family disagreements after the death of a parent, I believe it’s important to start those conversations early, and preferably with the parent. Too often we think talking about estates is a taboo subject. Death comes to us all. Consult. Listen. Be your best self. Bring together, don’t split apart. Be fair. Be generous.
If I can return more specifically to the subject of forgiveness, Sarah has some great of advice:
Forgiveness is an action.
I’ve often used this little analogy with clients and in my own mind, that the painful thoughts are making a groove like on a vinyl record. To stop falling into those old dreadful scenarios that can play out over and over - both in reality and in memories - I need to make a new groove.
This takes practise and the more I do that, the more I forgive , the easier it is to fall into the new mind space where I can breathe and relax. It doesn't mean I've forgotten what happened it just means I choose not to carry it anymore.
Or there’s Angela’s forthright approach:
I don’t need to forgive anyone. In fact, I’m over the whole power-based concept of forgiveness. Growing up Catholic I was forever told I was a sinner and unworthy and must seek forgiveness. To die without confessing your mortal sins meant eternal damnation.
To be honest with you, writing this post has lifted my spirits. I know who I have to forgive but in the meantime, I’m grateful that by reflecting and contributing we can help each other a little bit.
Note: In the lead-up to Christmas, I often think of people who have fallen out of my life for whatever reason. Sometimes forgiveness is something we need to do for ourselves more than a public gesture.
Thanks for your response to a recent post where you spoke about a Captain Mark O’Brien who helped you when you most needed it.
I found your letter so touching Richard, when you spoke of attending his funeral, despite only knowing him for six weeks:
Today I saw how many lives he had touched, and how important he was to people in all sorts of different places. I learned that the many wonderful qualities I'd glimpsed in those six weeks were actually characteristic of him throughout a long life, and I marvelled at the courage of a man who must have been dying at the time (I met him) staying so true to himself.
Why do I grieve for a comrade I knew so briefly? Because he saved my life and probably my family's lives too. He took a chance on me (by giving me a public service job) when I was unemployed and practically unemployable. I was 45 years old and getting by on precarious casual work, with mounting debts and zero prospects. I don't believe I'd have kept our home, or a lot of other things the family needs, much longer.
Certainly I'd lost much of my self-respect and was headed for complete collapse. Then this one man - a brilliant eccentric, kind-hearted, erratic, visionary, and introverted - gambled on me who so many others had rejected. He took me on, instead of the safer options who would certainly have fitted in more easily and caused less trouble for him. It has made all the difference. It was probably the last significant act of his naval career, and I hope he knew how much it mattered.
Richard, in an interview I did for One Plus One a few years ago with author Tim Winton he described the time a stranger turned up at the family home without notice, to care for his father who had been badly injured in an accident. Winton’s mother didn’t know how she was going to cope had the stranger not appeared.
How amazing that you discovered your own angel in Captain Smith. I wonder whether he knew that you were struggling when he gave you that public service job? Perhaps he sensed your quiet desperation?
And how fortunate that you had the gift of seeing an extra dimension to Captain O’Brien by attending his funeral. Now you know what a rare human he was and that some of his hushed magic rubbed off on you, leaving a lasting impression.
Thank-you for telling us honestly about your struggles Richard and for revealing this wonderful individual.
Far too many people have attempted to belittle me. I emphasise the term ‘attempted’ because in those situations I work very hard to ensure they don’t succeed - at least where my sense of self-worth and dignity are concerned.
Sometimes this can be immensely tiring.
Belittling actions occur on a spectrum - from a simple smirk to laughter and pointing. Then there are demeaning comments (often presented as statements or polite) to overt insults.
They hurt - they all hurt.
How does it feel? Like a slight tightening in the chest, a bristle at the back of the neck, a quickening of the heart and breath. In other words, the body prepares for a flight-or-fight response. Meanwhile, I gauge the situation and consider whether to ignore or react.
Which option I choose depends on the event and the strength of my resolve. I haven’t cried in public because I am fiercely determined that my personhood is always carried through and communicated. However, I have shed countless tears in private and cried myself to sleep too many times. All too often I feel like I am in a battle, and it’s a matter of survival that a chink in the armour isn’t revealed and exploited.
At other times, belittling behaviours can occur through ignorance. If that’s the case (and it’s not always possible to ascertain), then I will engage with the person or people because I consider that to be my job. It’s my job as a parent, to inform and correct stereotypes or misinformation so that my child is less likely to be belittled.
I do get battle-weary. On those occasions I nurture myself through art, my family and a good dose of mindless TV comedy (Frasier, Big Bang Theory, Michael MacIntyre).
Jane, I hope this gives you a sense of what it’s like to feel belittled.