Shield

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For once, this word is not derived from Latin. I know, amazing, right? 🙂

But oh, the meaning! Ah, the meaning! Yes, protection, but actually it means to divide, to separate. So result aside (protection), the intent is to keep the distance. It may seem I am making too much of it, but my infamous defence walls have always been a bit of a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong, I need them, but the idealist in me rues that need. In my struggle for connection, how could I not regret (note, regret, not resent) the very thing that protects me? The mask, the quick quip, the attack, the logical analysis… so many ways of saying “I do not trust you to take care with my soul” therefore “you stay away, there where I can see you and watch your every move” because the alternative is to get my soul damaged by the same carelessness with which I raise these walls… wait, what?

Hmm, yes, I guess that makes sense, that we all have walls. It comes I think from the loss of innocence which then translates into a certain cynicism regarding people in general, although we do try to define the breadth of that mistrust.

From the Platonic halves to the Babel tower, we have struggled with the separation, with the difference, with the mistrust. We have found ways around the worst of it, too, in enlightment, in agape, in religion. Using them as shields. Unable to overcome the separation, we have built bridges and crossed them when at all possible. We have learnt to accept the separation and, in the course of a normal life, many of us don’t even struggle anymore. After all, what can be the point, when this is how it is, when there is no point to fight, when this is what we are fated for?

We have built our societies around it. We praise the separation and teach our children to respect it. Because, I assume, of death. Which we have demonized as the final separation (although even then we have attempted to build bridges).

Is this, then, the best that we can do? Love, learn, pray, then succumb to death? Build walls so that the words of our loved ones don’t harm too much? Struggle to keep our selves (bodies, but spirits, too) intact because we cannot even contemplate the alternative?

Hey, wait a minute!

Hey, wait a lifetime, you mean! For we are not born with those walls, yet few go out of childhood not having them. Those we call simple, naïve or angels. That innocence, again. I struggle with it.

And yet I am no stranger to the one thing that makes those bridges possible, that looks at separation and, if we but let it, has us trying again and again to cross.

I am talking, of course, of hope.

It is one of those things (like life, and freedom, and learning) that would look mighty strange were it extinguished.

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Resilience

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Sometimes we need to stop. Sometimes we need to distance ourselves from a path that is no longer ours. Sometimes we need to look across time and recognize habits for what they are: comfortable, soothing, but ultimately the past.

Then we are ready. Not necessarily to change then and there, but to allow ourselves to contemplate change as a possibility, not a disaster. The opening of the mind may have happened before, but I think we realize that the mind is not nearly enough for change. The heart has to be involved, otherwise we are stuck between the old and the new with no way to go back but also no way to go forward. Because our hearts aren’t in it.

For a species who recognizes we do not like change we are terribly good at inflicting change on ourselves. It becomes a criteria desirable for any employment. 🙂 Although I would argue that even the best of us at change are really the best of us at dealing with the fall-out of change. In other words, we still suck at change but we can roll with the punches better and, in some cases, learn to love the stress response. Adrenaline junkies, anybody?

Resilience is the word of the day. That quality that sits so uncomfortably between stubborness and aspiration, that moulting of the stress that allows us to grow. It’s the recoil of the decision-making, otherwise known as consequence. It’s the forward leap using the momentum of the push back.

I was pondering resilience because I am now better at recognizing it in myself and others. I had this feeling when I was young that time will help with something. That I am going to step into my power and wield it as I should. I am not sure I was thinking of any magic, although… well, there is a part of me that feels ancient. Permanent. But that is for another time.

I take myself for granted. In translation, I know I can count on myself: my body, my mind, my feelings, my principles. In part, this is because I left childhood behind me. I take life seriously and words even more so (I don’t have “boys” and “girls” in my circle of friends). I can face a situation and determine my response without generalizing.

I am resilient. There is no boasting in it, although you will find some pride, as usual. I would boast if I had worked at it and succeeded. Instead, I was, as usual, lucky. I was given enough hard stuff to gain resilience, but not enough to warp me out of all recognition. But I had so few of the risk factors that it seemed almost inevitable that I would gain resilience. No, I am not saying that people who have risk factors can’t gain resilience. It’s just that they have to work at it whereas I… I only became aware I am resilient because I paid attention. Because I had a mirror close by. This mirror, the little one, is only now learning about resilience.

I used to wonder if we can learn resilience. It seemed to my young eyes something that you either have or don’t. But in this mirror of mine I can see the learning taking place. Because I can offer comfort and touch. Because I am there to discuss possible responses to everyday upsets. Because I can explain complexity (pacifism and patriotism being yesterday’s discussion) thus allowing understanding to grow.

But mostly because I stop and pay attention and respond with love. Time alone will tell if this way is better than throwing the little one into the water with no swimming skills.

I have hope…

Dance

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Why is it, do you think, that non-serious illnesses are the most annoying things of all? Is it because they are non-serious so you couldn’t possibly feel as miserable as you do? Is it because it shows us how weak we are, downed by a simple, not-yet-life thing like a virus? Anyway, feeling rotten so I am in need of something cheerful to take my mind away from streaming eyes and nose and glutes that are aching from so much sitting or lying down.

So let’s talk about dance. Don’t ask where the word comes from, no one seems to know 🙂 The last link is France, do you think dance would have just risen out of the Mediterranean fully formed? But the act of dance itself is very old. People have recorded it on stone 9000 years ago, but there’s nothing to indicate that dance isn’t even older than that.

I was born to dance, the same way I was born to fly, love and help. It doesn’t mean I do any of those things well or alone or even at all :). But whenever I do any of them, the same feeling of normality creeps up on me: I am doing what I am supposed to do. Nothing fancy, earth-shattering or social. Just me, doing what I am supposed to do. The life in me feels heightened, as it should when I am on the right path.

Why then do I not do this more often? Why wait for so long between dances?

Part of the answer lies in my preference for couple dancing. Ballroom, Latino, combinations thereof (except Ceroc), slow swaying to the rhythm of a rock ballad… one needs a partner for those, and that leads me to another part of the answer: to my shame, I lead 🙂

My dance partner has to be strong, confident and skilled. I have a good memory and I love to dance, so I can sweep around the dancefloor without nary a thought to the fact that I should follow my partner. That doesn’t go down well unless said partner has the above qualities. And how many strong, confident, skilled dancers would have the patience to dance with a rank beginner?

I also teach reasonably well so sometimes I ended up increasing the confidence of other girls… which meant that I almost forgot the woman’s steps… which meant that I was not dancing per se… so I stopped.

Excuses, excuses… 🙂

If there is one genre I love it would have to be Latino, with salsa and rumba first among equals. I can spot skill a mile away and grieve when the song is over. I don’t care if my legs hurt or my hips ache or my feet feel on fire. If I could have it my way I would single-handedly open up the dance halls of our grandmothers, mothers, and even myself in another country, in another life. So that going out doesn’t mean having a drink staring across the bar or trying to make myself heard above music that is always too loud. So that going out means that I can be a wall flower and watch beautiful dancing, then quit being a wall flower (never liked that role much 😛 ), grab a group of like-minded people and start living… I mean dancing.. oh, whatever! 🙂

Anticipation

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Not surprisingly, it comes from Latin. Also not surprisingly, it is related to expectation and hope and prediction. Surprisingly though, originally it referred to action, not passive waiting. I like this kind of words 🙂

I was considering today the difference between expectation (discussed on this blog in another article) and anticipation. The difference, I think, is at the above-mentioned action level. Expectations are sometimes inspirational, sometimes a pain in the neck, but they are concepts and ideas only, and as such they can hurt you more as it’s difficult to neutralize them. Anticipation, on the other hand, is very active, very specific and a lot easier to use than expectation. Let me explain by using at least two examples (what we would consider a positive and a negative one).

Stage fright is the most common example of negative anticipation. We worry ourselves sick, of course, if we are normal (people being in front of a group of others who are not their kin, that they can’t see well and who are not smiling in welcome – and we’re supposed to enjoy it? Ludicrous!). In other words, we have expectations of how we need to perform, then we anticipate us stumbling, forgetting the words etc. Those scenarios drive us to distraction, but more than that, unless we find a way to limit them (rituals, mindfulness, repetition…) they will come true.

That leads me to the positive anticipation, like that used by professional athletes and others for ages! Visualizing yourself winning the race, or even just running, has clear effects on the body and the mind. It is obvious we can use it in so many situations. And if sometimes that feels like cheating, just remember that negative visualization is cheating as well! That is, of course, a knee-jerk response. The way I prefer to say it is that we are thinking the future into existence, and we might as well make it a good one if we’re going to so much trouble 🙂

That leaves me to cover the most common type of anticipation, which is mostly both negative and positive. I refer, of course, to desire. Please feel free to read as much as you wish about it, to describe it as best you can, to try to reign it in as much as your belief urges you to. There are few things in this life that will move humans to greater action faster than desire. It can make us go through the entire gamut of emotions a human being can experience, including some that by rights should not even exist – sick with joy, anybody?

The feeling of rising out of the initial darkness, the escape from routine, the longing for meaning, all of them are encompassed. We truly do not know how strong we are until we deal with this particular type of anticipation. We also do not realize how complicated our lives are and how many obstacles humans create for themselves until we experience desire.

Now the question remains: should we give in to desire? And what about love? Where does love fit in with it?

Teach

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You’d think it would be difficult to find a notion that includes, in various definitions and languages, to lead into vice or bad habits, a token, to watch or guard, and those quite aside from the well-known definition. Turns out it’s not impossible, teaching covers the lot and more 🙂 Sounds a bit strange, when you think about it, but for once I am not interested in etymology.

You see, there is something about the ability to teach that sparks every nerve cell in my body. I love to learn. I mean, I really love it. The worse punishment you could give me as a child was to tell me I could not go to school that day. And that was without even taking teachers into consideration. I was interested in learning but having in front of me someone who actually knew those subjects, oh, my, divinity was simply too little a gift for them! Yeah, well, I was always a bit OTT 🙂

I had a bit of a problem though. Most children learn to please others and I was no exception. Most children move on though as they grow up and they learn for their own sake. I never made that move completely. I could still learn a subject with a bad teacher if it was in my interest but no matter how much I loved that subject or how good I was at it, bad teaching would lead to me giving up that subject.

I sometimes made teachers uncomfortable. I am an impossible pupil unless you are very confident in what you teach. My memory, like so many children of my generation, has been honed over years of rote learning. I stare at teachers for hours on end if allowed trying to absorb everything they can give. I always have a answer and I am quick about it. I am also reasonable with analysis and synthesis. I test teachers to make sure they remember their own words. All in all, perfect for one on one tuition, but horrid in a classroom 🙂

I mentioned once that between people and books, the books almost won. The reason they didn’t is because they are simply not personal enough. Yes, yes, yes, I know that everybody perceives the same book differently, but that is not enough for me. I want to be taught. I want to look at the teaching subject not through the static lens of a book but through the eyes of a person who loves that subject. I am not asking much, am I? 😛

An example is gardening. I have read uncounted books on it and experimented in my garden and the results have been dismal. I am now learning to garden organically and I can’t wait for each class. A subject I love taught by a teacher who loves it… a no brainer, really!

I am also very angry if a teacher is not good. It’s the unfairness of it, you know? Here is a subject that could be taught so well and could change lives in the bargain… and what are you doing with it? How dare you make a hash of it? Horrid pupil, like I said!

Of course I would love to have private tutors for each subject I want to learn (and there are many, as described in yet another blog). Small groups seem to be ok though, so I’ll stick to it.

But what I would actually like is an apprenticeship. Does anyone know a person who’s skilled in herbalism and wouldn’t mind having me as a shadow?

Quality

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There are many things I admire in people. Some are qualities, others are skills (it’s difficult to differentiate between them though…). Don’t get me started on talking about qualia or we’ll be here until tomorrow! 🙂

Some of the qualities I admire I also strive to encourage in myself. Others, as I know very well, will be forever out of my reach, I can only admire them and try not to envy 🙂

Bravery is probably the first on any of my lists. I don’t mean daring feats and adventurous inclinations, although they are brave and I am grateful for the freedom they bring to those of us left behind. Most brave acts though are nothing special to anyone else. It comes down to choice of action actually, not always taking the easy way for yourself. Some would say that immigration is brave, and yet I never considered mine so because I did it for love, and where’s the bravery in that? But when a relationship doesn’t work and you are gearing yourself to tell him so, and you make scenarios in your head and you know for sure that an easy way would be to just behave badly and get dumped… but instead you gather your courage, walk those steps and tell him straight that it’s not working out and you don’t want to be together anymore… well, I admire that!

Keeping your word comes very close on the tails of bravery. I don’t set much store by honesty in itself as too often it is not feasible, desirable or practical. Ideally it is a great thing, but there are too many people for that ideal to work. It is all I can do to keep lying to a minimum and try very hard not to lie to myself too much. I expect people in general to lie, prevaricate, avoid, evade or distract from the truth and that is a survival mechanism linked to personal interest. I won’t pretend I am not hurt by it and maybe I am too cynical, not too mention vain enough to accept lies at face value. I may not consider looks to be very important but I still won’t like to be told I am fugly 🙂 But keeping one’s word, that I insist on.

Kindness is such an overarching subject, I don’t even know where to start defining it. It has a lot to do with empathy, understanding, acceptance but true kindness feels personal and that is what I am looking for. I have no desire for charity in the pity sense or even in the general sense of “you are people and I love all people”. If you are kind, then be kind to me, not to my species. If you are kind, then be happy when you are with me. If you are kind, then pay attention to me, not to your God or Goddess who prescribed kindness for you. Selfish, ain’t I? 🙂

Wisdom is another difficult one. Intellect in itself is rather off-putting for me, unless some of the above qualities round up the edges a bit. Analysis is all very well when you have a problem but logic only takes you so far when it comes to feelings, and that is what I am about. Experience comes close, in that the sheer quantity of life happening over years carries a attraction. But the learning that comes to some from that experience, ah, that is priceless! It is not guaranteed – how many of us repeat our mistakes? But when it happens, I could gladly stay and listen for ages, then come back again and again, never tiring, always trying to find ways to repay the lessons I am receiving.

Qualities… have I even scratched the surface?

Adjusting

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It is easy to talk about love when you’re happily in love. It is also easy to talk about love when you are not happy about it. But, ignoring click-bait articles like “if he does that he truly loves you” and “if she says this her love is gone”, how do we adjust our inherent bias to talk about love a bit more objectively? Is that even possible? Can we quantify and delineate the place love holds in our lives?

I guess the easiest way would be to go back in time and in love. I mean we must think about a love that has happened in the past, before another love. There are probably people who have been in love only once but in my experience most people have been in love several times. Some have even been in love at the same time with several people, but we’ll avoid that for the moment not because there’s something wrong but because we are trying to analyze something a majority of people can relate to.

If we want to get really picky I guess we could eliminate teenage loves as well, on account of hormones, inability to distinguish between love and lust, immaturity etc. I am reluctant to do so, for two reasons. 1. Sometimes it really is true love. You could try to think of your own teenage love and check your feelings about it. If you still feel warm fuzzies or very protective about it, chances are it was true love, despite the obstacles given above. 2. Maturity, difference between love and lust etc…. those are hindsight speaking. What I mean is that for each love we have felt, looking back, we can use the wonderfully frustrating thing called hindsight to say “it wasn’t true love, it was lust” or some such statement that implies we are now more mature and, going back, we would have done things differently.

Maybe this is what I am trying to do, use hindsight to objectify relationships, find a proper place for love. But isn’t hindsight our first line of defence when we’ve been hurt? “I should have seen the signs” is a common comment. “I was going through a rough patch” is another one. Both of them correct in essence, but can we reduce love to a mistake we have made because we were not mature enough? And are we ever mature enough to firmly say we will not make another mistake? Or even more extreme, saying that we will never love again? Or trying to use wish lists and website filters as a degree of maturity?*

I have always considered love as different from the person I love AND from myself. This is another way of being more objective when it comes to love. It is also a lot more rigid. If that person was loved by me then (worthy or not… hm, it took me the best part of ten years to admit I may have been at fault in a break up I could have sworn was the other one’s fault 😛 ) then that love is a given, no matter what happened in the meantime. This is probably why I consider love as selfish, as expressed in another blog article on the same subject. At the same time, this perspective holds love as the only thing that cannot hurt, ever. A break-up can hurt, unkindness can hurt, taking for granted can hurt, unrealistic expectations can hurt too. Relationships, huh? But love is not touched by those, doesn’t live or die by those either. It endures, unchanged, until time alone can fold it into the past.

*I have nothing against dating websites, in fact I know several couples who have met that way. I understand the need for those filters, too, and for the wish lists. It comes down to the distance between us, and in the era of connectedness that distance is enormous. We had to substitute something, right?