Growing pains

Growing pains

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Lots of em. One step forward, two steps back. Will I ever learn?

I know I shouldn’t let my emotions run away with me, and yet that is exactly what I keep doing. Which is not so bad when they are good but… Well, you get my point. That centre just keeps getting away from me.

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And yet… when I look back at who I was almost nine years ago, I find her hardly recognisable. It seems impossible that I was ever this cocky. I keep asking myself: How did I manage to think that I knew so much (which I did, by the way, and do) when I knew so very little (and keep knowing less as I grow older, it seems to me)?

I feel both more in control and less. A little the wiser, I hope, and a lot of illusions the poorer. Still teetering on the edge of cynicism, although I keep scrambling away from it. Is there bravery in refusing to give in, or is it sheer stubborn stupidity? A bit of both, I suppose.

What I do know is that the world will only change if enough of us refuse to become cynics. If enough of us continue dreaming, fighting, rebelling… being naive and seeking to meld together the wisdom of the past with the knowledge that our species gathers so very eagerly.

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And so I continue to seek out the Light.

As the days are darkening and the summer in which I went through another transition stretches into fall, I stride — or perhaps I should say ‘stumble’ — forward, feeling both as confused and as certain as ever (and perhaps more), but holding on just a little more securely to who I am.

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Yeah, right.

What caught my eye today

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[This was actually said by a character called Socrates in Dan Millman’s book ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior’]

This quote caught my eye on Facebook today. While I think it is applicable to pretty much every aspect of human society, I first interpreted it in terms of myself. (How egocentric? Yes, and gladly so, as you’ll see.)

Reading the quote was a bit of an AHA moment for me. For as long as I can remember, tThere have been many things I wanted to change about myself. Often because I suffer from the plague called perfectionism, but just as often because others wanted or expected me to be different or criticised (part of) who I was.

In the past year or so I have been working on shifting my attitude from ‘trying to be someone or something else’ to ‘liking (and even loving) myself just the way I am’. And to hell with the rest of the world. And to hell with perfectionism, too!

Somehow thinking of change as building something new instead of fighting the old makes a real difference. Fighting is hard. Building, however, is a challenge and a privilege.

My challenge today is learning to love myself. Instead of trying to change the old, I will learn to look at myself with new eyes and figure out what I want to build: new skills, new friendships, new confidence, new joy. And somewhere along the way, I will find back many pieces of myself that I lost along the way, as well.

What caught your eye today?

Courage is love

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I have never felt I was a particularly courageous person. Even as a young child, I tended to be aware of all the risks involved in any undertaking. Climbing rocks? What if I slipped and fell and broke a leg? Or worse, my neck? Swimming in the sea? Those waves looked really big and scary, what if I drowned? I fear that my countless fears have kept me from many wonderful experiences. I have often felt (or been made to feel) like a coward.

I was also a hugely sensitive child. I cried easily (and still do, which I hate), feeling the pain and suffering of animals and people around me. Whether in a movie or in real life, I tended to get overwhelmed by their misery, drowned in their sorrow. Or so it seems when I look back at my childhood, and beyond. I have also come to believe that I unconsciously absorbed the emotions of others, which accounts for some of my inexplicable mood changes and the fear that I could not really rely on my own judgement.

I never learned to shield myself and boy, the sorrows of the world are way too big to carry for a young child. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Curiously, I was also totally fearless in the face of injustice. As a teenager, I faced down the doctor parents of a girlfriend who suffered from the advanced stages of anorexia and yelled at them that they should stop seeing only what they wanted to see because their daughter needed help. I told off bullies who harried my friends (quite naturally, I tended to befriend the bullied).

Aged 11, writing my first essay for school, I asserted that the civilisation of the American Indians (which fascinated me) may well have been more civilised in many ways than our so-called Western civilisation. My essay was assessed by the head of my school and I remember being totally pissed off that he had not recognised how completely and incontrovertibly true that statement was (and for not giving me a higher grade). Such unfairness! Can you tell I was also a tiny bit precocious?

I was a little slip of a girl with a big mouth. And way too big fears. An unhappy combination, I often think. Particularly if you do not get the spiritual guidance such children require.

Today I look at my children and wonder how I can help them love this big, bad world and its teeming mass of defenceless creatures while refusing to get so caught up in its suffering that it incapacitates them. The two eldest are just like me, particularly my daughter. The youngest, I think, is more self-contained.

I am 42 years old and only now learning how to keep the world’s suffering at bay, how not to be overwhelmed by it. It would have been easy to become a cynic, to withdraw into myself and give up on the world. I understand how this happens. I was sorely tempted. But it would have made me even more miserable to cut myself off from the world when it needs all the help it can get, as do I.

I know it sounds crazy, but it is true: I am learning to encounter the negativity with love. When I talk to someone who is suffering or needs help in whatever way, I offer what I can from my own experience, however humble that wisdom may be. And I give them all the warmth and love I have in me, and some that is offered through me.

While I am unsure that it eases their pain or helps them solve their problem, it is sometimes all that I have to offer. An added benefit is that it helps me be stronger and keeps me from being overwhelmed.

Perhaps this is my particular kind of courage. To get up and struggle on against the odds, to persist in seeing light even in the darkest hours of my life (there have been a few), to speak up for what I believe even if it makes me an annoying firebrand. And to love beyond reason.

Thank you, Oscar.

I am leo, hear me roar

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I bet you are thinking that this is going to be one of those blog posts in which I lament my neglect of A Gilded Yarn and my lack of time. Consider it done.

That is indeed where my thoughts started out but then I realised we are all busy (well, most of us anyway). Most of us have too many things they need and want to do and too many things they do not want but feel they have to do. Let’s face it, most of us have a lot of Duty and a lot less ‘Do as thou wilt’ time than they would like.

In this I am blessed. I do not have to work two or three jobs to survive. I do not have to watch my children starve or waste away of an illness that would be easy to cure if only they had been born in the Western world. I do not have to spend my days sewing and growing old in a dark and dank workshop, locked away from light and the world, fearing every day that I will burn to death only because that same Western world wants to wear a different T shirt every day.

I am blessed. I have three beautiful, healthy children and a spacious, warm roof over my head. I have a job that brings in money and is fairly intellectually challenging yet allows me to be a stay-at-home mother at the same time. While I do complain sometimes (too often!), I love being able to take my children to school and pick them up for lunch. I love when their school day ends and I get to take them home, or to the park for a picnic or the museum. I love being able to visit events and farmer’s markets and watch my children explore new things or play in the sun. Truly, I am blessed.

My house isn’t as clean or well organised as I would like it to be (I admit, it is far from that). While there is a lot I would like to improve, I now also accept that in the choice between a spic and span house and an actual LIFE, the latter easily wins out. My children don’t (usually) eat from the floor so why should they be able to? I’d rather take them to discover what life is really about and learn to live it to the fullest.

When they grow up, I don’t want them to say that they could eat from the floor, that their ears were washed every day and they learned about being dutiful and following the rules.

No – when my children grow up, I want them to say that they were encouraged to explore the world and their interests. That they were allowed to try new things and play and enjoy life. That they were taught that doing your duty is important but they should also think about how much sense that duty actually makes. That their freedom ends where the freedom of others starts and this means respecting other cultures, beliefs and ideas, however foreign they might seem. I want them to know that following the rules is right, but only if those rules are fair. And to have the courage to stand up and rebel against the rules if they are not.

Above all, I hope that they will know that they are beautiful, good people who are allowed to make mistakes. I hope I will have helped them develop the resilience to get up and try again or move on when they fall. And know that they don’t have to live their lives the way others expect them to live. They decide what is important to them and no one else.

And yes, I have to ‘lead by example’. I believe this is one of the main lessons I have learned in the past years. If I want my children to be free, I must be free myself. And if I want them to be the beautiful people they are, to the fullest, then they must see me be as I am. Not as others want me to be. Not as duty tells me I should be. Not even as I think I should be.

Just simply, purely me.

It may seem the simplest thing in the world. To me it proved one of the hardest. I hope I can make it easier for my children.

I’ve done and gone hooking

The Buddha and hyperbolic space

The Buddha and hyperbolic space

Now that does sound rather awful, doesn’t it? Rest assured, it isn’t as weird as it sounds. I have not been around my blog much lately because I have been busy with work, my children (14-year-old requiring serious homework drilling, girls ill on and off), knitting, and so on and so forth.

I went to a symposium associated with the new Hand Made exhibition in collaboration with Etsy at Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam last Friday. It was interesting to be reminded how the crafts are seen by people generally involved in ‘high art’ (whatever that may be – not as much as it is made out to be by the ‘experts’ in my not-so-humble opinion). I’ll tell you more about the symposium and exhibition in another post.

And yes, I took up crochet. Initially for a project that has now been sidelined because I could not bring myself to get started on it (but I will!) and then… well… I got hooked. Seriously. Fortunately my daughters are crazy about the crochet flowers I am churning out because I’m not sure I would wear them myself. Just a tad too granny for my taste, but who knows, that might change because I am discovering that things look quite differently when you make them yourself! As in, less ‘For God’s sake, I would never ever be caught dead in that!’ and more ‘Hmmm… if I changed this, and added that, and picked a really chic yarn… I might actually get to like it!’

I am also fascinated by the fact that there are many scientist knitters and crocheters (is that a word?). Just Google ‘knitted geometric shapes’ or ‘crochet hyperbolic space’ and see what turns up. So the other day I started on a crochet pattern for a dahlia, which at one point somehow seemed to turn into something looking a lot like hyperbolic space. See here, for instance. And here, where I found out that crochet actually intersects with my sister’s work as a marine biologist. She’ll just love that, ahem.DSC08195

It does seem curious that a tangible representation of hyperbolic forms seemed impossible until crochet stepped in, doesn’t it? I would expect to be more aware by now of how everything is connected. I am not as easily surprised as I used to be in that respect but this one threw me!

The most wonderful thing about crafts, however professional or amateur your creations, is that one idea engenders another, and another, and another. And every individual person will come up with something different. I think this is amply illustrated by the Friday Fictioneers, each of whom comes up with something entirely different when looking at the images proposed by Rochelle. Of course there are parallels between stories sometimes but they are never the same. And in the same way, I believe that crafts are a celebration of individual expression. In a world increasingly obsessed with mass production and consumption and utter ‘sameness’, more and more people feel the need to remind themselves that they are not the same, that they are unique creatures capable of unique achievements.

This last little fluffy bit is no mathematical mystery, of course. Just a little present for one of the lovely people I will be meeting at the Breidag in Nieuwegein tomorrow. And yes, that’s my face reflected in the background. I did done and seen it but didn’t feel like taking a new picture. I’ll just be the lady in the mirror, isn’t that lovely and mysterious?DSC08188DSC08222

Out of the mouth of babes…

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My eldest daughter Isabeau and I have frequent conversations about the concept of God these days. While I believe, it is an entirely personal faith and I would like my children to make up their own minds as to what they believe – or not. At the same time, I want to offer them guidance, teach them to be open to, respectful of, and curious about what others believe, and help them explore what the world has to offer in this respect.

My five-year-old attends an ecumenical school, which in the Western part of the world tends to mean that religious teaching (if any) is restricted to the Christian churches. I think this is a pity because there is much beauty and goodness to be found in most of the world’s faiths and particularly in a mixed culture like ours, children should learn about as many of them as possible. What matters is the quest for truth, beauty and goodness – the light within – and not what form it has been moulded into by mankind.

Be that as it may, I am grateful that she is taught the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus in a playful and (hopefully) loving manner. As long as there is freedom and no force in the learning, any teaching about faith is welcome.

What that teaching, and my own little talks about God (by any of His or Her names), lead to however, is a lot of difficult questions! Any parent who has discussed abstract concepts with their children will know how children infallibly zoom in on the most unanswerable questions – and expect us to answer them, as well!

It is very important to me that I do not obscure their own easy, bright light and understanding with ‘difficult stuff’ so it is a fine line I am treading. I think I will have done one vital part of my job as a parent if I help keep that bright light shining in in my children.

Last week my daughter and I talked (among other things) about how God is both Father and Mother. So I said that God is in everything. God created everything and is in everything, including your heart. Whenever you feel lonely or have a difficult decision to make, you can just be still in your head and listen, and God will help you feel better and know what is right. (‘Still, like this, mommy?’ ‘Exactly so, darling’)

Today while playing a game, Isabeau offhandedly continued our discussion (as if it had never been concluded, as our discussions tend to be) and said that God and Jesus are in everything. So are they also in toys?

– Well, yes of course, darling.

– Because God and Jesus created everything, didn’t they?

– Well… actually God created everything. He imagined everything and created the little pieces that are in everything, like molecules and atoms (oh God, there I went with the difficult stuff)…

– Okay… So God created everything, and Jesus painted it all!

– Right… That’s exactly right, my darling.

Phew… she got me out of a difficult situation there and solved it all neatly and perfectly. Out of the mouth of babes…

Oppositions merging

Ram Dass we are moving toward a light that embraces the darkness

Today I just wanted to share this image and thought with you. I feel it is particularly appropriate at this stage in my life, where I am learning to accept me the way I am.

I am finding that my strengths are also my weaknesses and my weaknesses are also my strengths.  It is equilibrium that counts.

And so embracing my darkness is the only way for me to move into the light.

Friday Flash Fiction

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First Light

They were the last to board.

As she ushered her children up the steps, she looked back at the limousine that had brought them here from the Mountains and waved. JK had been a good friend through this first gathering.

‘For Love and Light and the Good of the World’, the extraordinary invitation had said. She had wondered why her. ‘Ah… but you understand what the Good of the World really means. We have scientists and designers and politicians, but we were still missing Love and Light,’ said JK when asked. She supposed they knew what they were doing.

Of course, she never saw the bright golden light that surrounded her and her children. But they knew.

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117 words

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This is my first submission for the Friday Fictioneers. Every week the inimitable Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts an image on her blog and challenges people from around the world to write a one hundred word word story ‘with a beginning, middle and end’ and post the link to her blog.

Admittedly my first submission is 117 words but I felt that taking away more words would have taken away from the story. I am notoriously verbose so I actually think I did quite well.

I first read about the challenge on J.K. Bradley’s blog (discover it here) after he liked one of my earlier blog posts. He wrote a creepy contribution that made me curious about the Friday Fictioneers and well… The rest is recent history. So yes, J.K., the guy in my story is named after you. I hope you are suitably flattered!

The inspiring photo for this week’s challenge came courtesy of Rich Voza. Visit Rochelle’s blog here to read some other amazing submissions. And I would welcome your comments, of course.

For the curious: ‘Gold is the color of enlightenment and divine protection. When seen within the aura, it says that the person is being guided by their highest good. It is divine guidance. Protection, wisdom, inner knowledge, spiritual mind, intuitive thinker.’

It might surprise you that I did not know this when I wrote my story. I’ll make an even crazier confession: When I was pregnant with my eldest daughter Isabeau, I/we breathed golden light. Which is whence my inspiration for this little story came.

Einstein knew…

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Is it the human condition or is it the society we have built for ourselves, that so many forces around us try to mould us into being something we were never meant to be?

Oh, I know I am guilty of it all too often, when I want this or that or the other for my children. Particularly my eldest son, who is developing so quickly right now. It is hard to find that fine line between helping (and sometimes pushing) a child to develop as he should and trying to force him into a straitjacket – and it seems even harder to stay on the right side of that line. As a parent I am supposed to intervene from time to time, but I am not supposed to run interference.

Obviously schools and well-meaning ‘others’ can make any parent (especially first-timers) lose their way. I know I lost mine. Everyone else seemed to know better and so I, conditioned to fit in as much as anyone else, tried to keep everybody else happy and still find a way to ensure the happiness of my son. And myself, too, if at all possible. And I stopped listening to myself. In fact, I think I had stopped listening to myself a long, long time ago. Perhaps even when I was still a child.

That turned out just fine and dandy, of course. Not.

So I finally figured out that trying to fit into that straitjacket is part of what always made me feel like an outsider. And what made me increasingly miserable through the past years, as I desperately tried to make what people consider to be a ‘normal’ life for myself.

Because I just happen to not fit into a straitjacket, thank you very much. Nor does my son. If that means I am not normal, then so be it.

So these days I am trying on this jacket and that. I expect that I will end up sewing one by hand, piece by piece and stitch by stitch, and adjusting it until it fits me perfectly. It will probably be a very curvy (not straight) jacket made from different fabrics, with a lot of different buttons, tough leather and studs down one side and perhaps some embroidered silk down the other. It will have many colours and be versatile to fit with any hat I might choose to wear. It will be both extravagant and restrained, smart and silly, and very stylish, of course. And it will not look one bit like that straitjacket I finally managed to escape.

And in the process, I hope I will teach my children how to sew their own.

Thanks for clarifying that one for me, Albert.