My eye caught this beautiful scene of the sunlight through my front window this afternoon & I paused to take it in… the roses & green grass behind and, in the middle, this framed calligraphy of the beautiful, guiding poem Desiderata.
As I take time off following the end of a beautiful, hard job that stretched, broke (in bad & good ways), grew, shaped, blessed, fulfilled & thrived me…
As I take time off to think & feel & plan & be, before starting a new challenge & path ahead…
As I take time to enjoy art & reading & space & friendship,
this poem speaks to me anew & I am enjoying living it’s advice to (poem summary ahead):
Go placidly amidst the noise & haste & remember what peace there may be in silence.
Be on good terms with all persons.
Enjoy plans & achievements alike.
Be at peace with God. See the beauty amidst the ugly drudgery it the world.
Yes, be yourself.
Through this hard year I have learnt the value of being more myself.
Of self-awareness, understanding & acceptance.
Acceptance which leads to better growth – of self & others.
And to the beautiful power & freedom of working, living, relating from a place of ever-more Me-ness as I continue to push on and let go.
As I continue to grow into the stunning living poem I am & write & draw my own story as I go.
Yesterday evening, for a WILD Friday night, I had my first counselling session. It’s been a long time coming. And I found a therapist I related to, who gets my comments about gender and race and keeps up with my flicking between received pronunciation and street language. A therapist who is REAL, in her gold reeboks, natural black-girl hair & statement t-shirt!
So 50minutes of ranting/ mature sharing later and I’m feeling ‘yep, I could work with you’…. and then the price was shared. Pow! The tears which had been building as I’d so freely shared my anger & pain spilled out. Cos it felt like a door that was opening had suddenly slammed shut!
Fast forward five minutes, as I came to the bottom of the stairs of her office I saw that the cosy waiting room was empty (cos y’know, it was FRIDAY NIGHT!)… so I walked to it to sit, cry, pray, & process.
AND THEN I SAW THIS: a Sunflower painting.
And I knew. This is my place. This is my counsellor. This is my God / the wall (delete according to your theistic belief!) confirming it to me. Saying ‘I see you, I’ve led you here, trust and proceed’. To add a little context, my nickname is Sunflower. But it’s more than a nickname. My being is Sunflower. I am Sunflower. So I sat, cried, listened to soothing music & prayed: I will go forward & TRUST the money & timings will work out. As sunflowers move to follow the sun, I’ll keep moving into this space that’s been offered, following the sun & helping to put the shadows behind me.
I’m struggling with feeling flat, my sparkle is gone and my smile – MY smile – is lost; my usually instant, beaming, deep, radiant smile is sluggish & dimmed.
I feel I’m in a period of emotional, spiritual, relational & physical unpeeling; it feels like life is a sea where some days waves constantly splash salty water in my face…
Some days I’m sitting on the shore with my ankles in the wet sand, stuck, while everyone else is swimming. And some days, the days I’m myself, I’m enjoying gently paddle boarding, floating in the sunshine, my heart JOYED by the beauty of the shimmer on the water.
Today was a salty wave day. It was hard.
BUT as with the days before this… I showed up! I felt great singing & leading praise music at work this morning (yep, Christian places do that-at work!) – then my emotions & brain capacity went up and down like a chapati-rising one moment then flat as a chapati (or a pancake!) the next. Flattened & lifted & flattened more & lifted & flattened (you get the picture!).
This period gives me the choice – of hiding behind pride or of pursuing the path of Radical Vulnerability. I choose the latter. So in today’s greyness I wore my face as a mirror of my inner self-flat, empty, dull. Not ‘my face’- no NLB smile or glow today folks. And that’s OK. I’m being authentic and congruent.
And I’m being open with my beloveds (& now with YOU too!). I reached out to my Husband, Caramel Sister & Work Wife, sharing my flatness & asking for prayer. And WOW-the opportunities to receive grace that being honest gave me!! The kindness of loaned headphones so I could be lifted by music-my heart language & salve-as I worked! The perfectly timed deep hug & tearful chat. The food & homemade fairy-cake set aside for me. The gentle, slow-paced meeting with my manager & help from a kind colleague. And the ping of email to tell me of a ‘delivery’ at reception, bringing my first ME smile of the day when I saw the surprise delivery of flowers from my husband to bring a ‘little spark & smile’ to my day.
I’m not out of the emotionally thick woods yet (to mix my sea & land analogies!).
But my heart is not dull. It is warmed. I am so loved and liked just as I am. I have enough energy & contentment for the evening. And my home smells like flowers.
I regret a lot in life: not persevering with learning a language or instrument; not trying harder in school; saying I Love You back when I didn’t mean it (!!); having cheese and crackers tonight after a day of healthy eating; repeatedly going to bed too late, and lots more!
I think the idea that is oh so popular on inspirational Pinterest posters (ugh), that regrets are bad and we should have none just misses the whole point and deep value of regrets! They can be the best motivator and prod us to grow into the people we aspire to be; to be better friends and lovers etc, to improve at work, to save money, and take better care of our health etcccc.
Regret isn’t shame.
Shame labels us and makes us stuck.
Regret labels behaviour and moves us forward (well, for me it usually takes a few regrets to get the lesson but hey, it counts!).
Anyway, I was mulling on this recently and this short poem came to mind…
The gap between
What you do
Who you are,
And what you want to do
And who you want to be.
The gulf between
What you do,
Who you are,
And what other people want you to do
And who others want you to be.
Neither wallowing in regret,
Nor ignoring its painful lessons,
Rather striving to do and be
What and who you want to be.
And not letting others’ (imagined?) views hinder your quest.
I was having a conversation recently. In said conversation the topic turned to equality and diversity (as is standard for so many of my convos). We were discussing workplaces and hiring people who are ‘different’ to us – whatever that difference is to you, your team, your work, your personalities, your culture, your norms.
A guy. A lovely guy. A lovely guy who’s open, and aware, and actively committed to diversity & equality. A lovely guy from whom I’ve learnt about how to practically make space for and include others in my daily life; a lovely guy I’ve worked with.
He said something. Something NOT even offensive. Something normal and understandable and relatable.
As he explained why, when hiring for a role, they’d chosen the candidate with more ‘experience’ (in the limited boxes listed on the JD); the candidate who was ready to hit the ground running. He explained why they hadn’t chosen the other candidate.
The one they wanted. Like really really wanted. The one who had rich and varied experience and character and who would had stretched and added to their team and work in different ways. The one who would have needed some mentoring. Some input. Maybe some training and definitely some time, to learn and adjust. And who would have, in turn, taught and grown them. He explained how, with capacity constraints and output demands they just weren’t ableto do that now.
I silently ask myself silently:
What is ‘ability’ but willingness met with effort?
Do you ever experience someone saying or doing something really small or simple, but it opens up a WHOLE NEW way of thinking for you? Well thank you Hollie McNish for doing that for me this week!
I read a short poem/sketch she shared and *hey presto*, I’m deconstructing the ‘bases’ of sex and doing some serious musing on virginity. Firstly, she’s absolutely right. The Male Tongue created the language of sex (and I don’t mean in the good way !*).
Why is the pleasure from a hand or tongue, which, when used with consent & consideration, is powerful and rich enough to bring women and men and others to climax deemed ‘fore‘ play? Why not just ‘play’?
Why is virginity ‘lost’ (lost?) when a person’s penis enters another’s vagina? Why not when a person first experiences the releasing pleasure of consensual orgasm with another? Why instead is female virginity bound to men reaching that ‘final’ base where they orgasm inside another? Wait-are lesbians virgins forever?!
Why are those few films which show women receiving one of life’s great pleasures (well, when done right!) rated 18, while scenes of women pleasuring men are just soooo commonplace that’ll just be a 15? (Yep, true fact: Blue Valentine; Ryan Gosling fighting for that scene to be classed R – UK 15- frankly made that film and him even hotter!)
You know why?
Patriarchy decided language.
Patriarchy decided rules of sex.
To remake the rules, we have to reclaim and remake language.
And in typical LB fashion, we are already planning a celebration for when we reach 10 years in one year, five months and two days time (but who’s counting!). We LBs do love to celebrate (well I do, and David’s caught the bug through osmosis); but our desire to have a big party, blessing or some sort of celebration with friends & family goes deeper than just wanting to dress up, eat, drink, dance and generally have fun.
In our wedding service, as with all weddings to which I’ve been, our Vicar asked the congregation ‘do you, the family and friends of David and Natalia promise to support and uphold them in their marriage?’ And, as with every other wedding, everyone exclaimed ‘WE WILL!’.
Now, it has been said (on more than one occasion) that I take words too literally and seriously so maybe this is just me. But, to me, when I make this claim, when I shout out to my friends or family at the alter, making the biggest promise they’ll ever make, that I’ll support them in that, I mean it. But the number of people who announce their divorce to friends, family & acquaintances who are totally shocked shows that those friends or family likely haven’t been upholding or proactively supporting their marriage, or there wouldn’t be such shocked faces…and maybe there’d be fewer divorces.
But this isn’t just to tap away & judge the people who came, celebrated, ate, danced, meant well, gave a gift, and then buggered off. As adults, if we want support then we need to show that we are open to it. Yes, other people need to prioritise asking more than just superficial questions to which they expect and accept ‘yeh, we’re great thanks’ responses; we can ask ‘what’s been a highlight and challenge of marriage so far?’ or ‘what’s made you want to get divorced (this week!) and what’s made you glad you chose each other?’ etc. But we also need to be open to such input and, importantly, to provide opportunities for people to be part of our marriage (in a non-breaking of vows kinda way 😉 )…for me, that’s part of the reason I have a WhatsApp group with a couple of close, married mates wherein we can vent, seek advice, challenge & support each other.
And this part of the reason why we intend on marking our marriage milestones not just the two of us (though we do that as well), but as celebration within our community of family & friends. I love that because we so often have people live with us, they see the cuddles, the thoughtfulness, the not leaving the house without kissing each other goodbye of our LB marriage. They also see the griping, moaning, occasional shouting & swearing too (all me). Because of how open, honest & authentic we are (well, we try to be) our friends & family know that they can speak up, nudge, enquire etc about us. And what better opportunity to celebrate with, support and uphold us than at a big anniversary? Because our marriage is not just between the two of us-it’s a commitment and relationship which embraces and hopefully blesses and supports and help grow others we love too-and they, in turn, help us grow and be happier and better.