Category Archives: Thoughts for Thursdays

Thoughts for Thursdays – Einstein

Do you do this? Are you a fish that judges yourself on your ability to climb?

I think it’s common. We look around us at the myriad of talents that each individual possesses. We see the bright sparks of genius and think, ‘How come I’m not like that?

Maybe you remember it from your school days. Someone in a maths class always gets the concepts and answers right away, while you struggle to grasp seemingly alien concepts. Or your English teacher shares a passage written by a friend that captures beautifully and elegantly the poignant message of the novel you just read. Or you are blown past on the basketball court by the captain who effortlessly cuts to the basket.

Perhaps you notice it in your peers, whose talents seem to align seamlessly with what the world tells you you ought to be doing. In the student getting her PhD. In the friend at medical school. In the artist showing her photographs. In the student finishing his MBA.

The problem is, if you look too long and too hard at the bright lights of talent around you in individuals so different to you and with a myriad of their own gifts, you forget to look at yourself as who you are, with your own sparks of genius. You search inside of you for strengths that were never meant to be yours, and in doing so miss the strengths that are already your own.

You blame yourself for never being able to fly, when in fact, if you turned away from the sky and looked instead at yourself in the ocean, you would see that you are the most graceful swimmer the world has ever seen.

After all, do you think Michael Phelps looks at Serena Williams and thinks, ‘I’m a terrible athlete because I’ll never be able to serve a tennis ball like her’?

Your contribution to the world, your talents, your gifts, your sparks of genius are all your own. Imagine what you could create if you believed in those gifts.

So perhaps on another afternoon when you find yourself on the losing side of a game of comparison, you can gently remind yourself that Einstein, who could have revelled in his superiority over others in his field, chose instead to remind the world that we all have our own strengths.

 

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Thoughts for Thursdays – A Way Marker, a Journey (Wendell Berry)

Tonight marks an ending for me, and a beginning. After more than a year, I am heading back to…

Well, I’m not sure exactly what I should be calling it. Tomorrow is the first day of training for the volunteer placement I’m doing at with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Is it work? Is it normality? The phrase ‘real life’ pops into my head, but life has definitely been real–often starkly so–over the past year, so that can’t be right. After the training follows the actual volunteer placement, and immediately following that a month working with at-risk girls up North.

I’m going to have the kind of anchor that I think we all cling to in a way. You know, the one that allows you to respond to the question ‘so, what do you do?’ with an answer that others are accustomed to hearing: ‘I’m volunteering at/working at…’. This is much easier to say than ‘I am a spine-healing warrior forging a path through pain and healing, discovering whole new worlds inside of myself and flourishing my potential through exploration and experimentation, while standing up to the trials of spending so much time with myself and feeling left out, left behind, and overwhelmed while the world turns and I sit still, awaiting the moment when I can spring forward again in a happy, healthy body, into new adventures and over new horizons’, although this is, and will probably remain, far closer to the truth.

But though the journey here has been long, often dark, often confusing, filled with some very low valleys and some very bright insights, I do not feel I have arrived at a destination tonight, so much as I am laying down a way-marker. I am here to mark a change, an emergence from my cocoon of healing into whatever the next step holds.

I’m terrified. What if my back can’t handle it? What if it causes me intense pain? What if my body isn’t ready for this emergence that my heart and head have been screaming, crying, trying for? What if I have to bow out from something I’m so excited for? What if, and this is the scariest of all…what if while I’m doing something while volunteering and I re-injure myself to the point where I was this time last year…or worse?

I know these fears. They are concerned for me. Of course they are here with me tonight. I have spent 13 months in new territories of physical agony I had not known before, and with them came all sorts of emotional agonies too. I have come to know myself and my body intimately, although there is still more unknown than known. I have been living in a place so very different to any I have seen before and, quite frankly, totally different to any place any of my loved ones have ever inhabited: this has made it lonely. The fear comes with the change out of this place, and sidles along beside every expectation I hold about this change and every hope for the future.

I am stepping off what has felt like a very still riverbank into the the fast-flowing pace of life that I haven’t felt in a very long time.

I hold a tender pride for myself tonight, for reaching this moment, for simply surviving and emerging. I cradle carefully the tiny glimmer of hope that wishes so fervently that this way-marker is taking me out of this particular journey and onto another.

So a little thought, a little gem, a little gift for you tonight while I face this new adventure: a quote that perhaps, more than anything I’ve yet written about, embodies what this particular journey has felt like for me, and might offer you something to ponder:

It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.
– Wendell Berry

And, and oh, oh how I never imagined this moment: I am overwhelmingly, over-spillingly full of gratitude for everything that I have learned since embarking unwillingly, screaming and kicking and cursing and crying, onto this particular journey. Thank you, thank you, thank you, a million times…thank you.

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Thoughts for Thursdays – Fill in the blank & Steve Jobs

While rubbing on my suncream just now, I thought simultaneously of two things: the song, ‘wear sunscreen’, and a quote by Steve Jobs. This was the quote:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I actually misremembered the quote as saying something like “Life is too short to waste it by living someone else’s life, or by their dogma”. And since I had misremembered it as “life is too short”, that got me to thinking about what else life is too short for.

:: Life is too short to potentially shorten it by smoking. Or driving without a seat-belt. Or not exercising. Or eating poorly.

:: Life is too short to waste time and energy on the small, inconsequential mistakes and foibles we all face.

:: Life is too short to restrain yourself from saying ‘I love you’ to anyone, and everyone, that you love.

:: Life is too short to live by someone else’s dogma.

:: Life is too short to pass up on happiness wherever you find it.

:: Life is too short to put off those things that you know in your heart are really important to you.

:: Life is too short to spend all your best hours working a job you hate.

Maybe you’d like to take a minute now to re-align yourself with…yourself. Maybe you’d like to take a minute to take a deep breath, and listen to what it is you want for your life, being careful to notice if some of the desires that creep in are coming from someone, or something, outside of yourself. Maybe you’d like to take a moment to fill in the blank:

My life is too short to ______________________________.

Finally, my Thursday gift to you: Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford: “How to Live before you Die”. It’s where I found the quote above. And it is worth 15 minutes of your short life. Believe me.


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Thoughts for Thursdays – Kate Winslet calls out GQ’s lies: ‘I don’t look like that’

Keira Knightly gets a boob job, Jessica Alba gets slimmed down, and Cindy Crawford doesn’t actually look anything like…Cindy Crawford. In this short video, Jean Kilbourne talks to us about the female body in advertising, illuminating the ways in which the female body is over-sexualized, over-‘perfected’, and dehumanized, and shows us just how extreme the photoshop-changes are to the women we are told we should emulate in order to be beautiful.

At the end, she tells us how Kate Winslet stood up to GQ when they distorted an image of her for the cover of their magazine.

Enjoy. Or should I say…be repulsed.

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Interested in knowing more? This is a trailer for Jean Kilbourne’s ‘Killing Us Softly’ DVD. Check it out!

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Part Two of ‘This Moment’: Graffiti and Mary Oliver

[Life is short, and we have only the time that we are given, nothing more. Never more. Remembering that in our brief lives each moment of joy will pass, like each moment of pain, is the story of ‘Part Two’, which I will be adding soon]

Part Two

I can’t even begin to tell you how short your life is.

When I was in my teens, I came across a quote that used to make me giggle. I shared it like a joke with my friends and family. “Don’t tell me life is short. It’s the longest fucking thing you’ll ever do”. While I am still amused, I no longer believe it. I no longer have the ignorance and bliss that allows us, as innocent youth, to believe this: that what we have, that family, that love, that all those we hold dear, are forever.

Because really, isn’t that what we all thought? Wasn’t that exactly the falsehood that we believed so ferociously?

Until. Until we lost something irreplaceable. Until we were blindsided by sudden loss and the unbelievable heartbreak of really, truly, finally having to say goodbye.

Before Christmas I lost someone I love dearly. A few months before he passed, he took a trip down to Atlanta to say goodbye to his family there. When he got back home, he told me about how on every other trip he had always left by saying, Au revoir. This means, quite literally, ‘to the next seeing’. On this trip, however, he said Adieu. To god.

We don’t get a lot of time. Often we don’t even get the short amount that we assume we’ll get. Our bodies, these days, can last so much longer than any of our ancestors’. Most among us assume we’ll hit seventy, eighty, perhaps ninety. We have doubled, and more, our life expectancy. “It’s the longest thing you’ll ever fucking do“.

Expectancy. We expect to get the whole package. We expect.

And yet…and yet you could be dying as you read this, and not even know it. Inside of you could already be growing the cells that could turn into cancer. You could be deciding to take that job offer that could lead to getting into that taxi that could lead to being in that car crash.

Poof.

We don’t get a lot of time.

This too shall pass.

Although you might now be wanting to turn away from the perception of morbidity you think I’m presenting you, I’m going to ask you to stay. Because rather than weeping over death, this is an affirmation of life. We don’t get a lot of time, so use it. USE IT. Hold on to your life with both hands; respect your body and care for it because it is keeping you alive. Did you hear me just then? Your body is keeping you alive, and it is fragile. Respect and care for it.

Those small moments of joy, whatever they are for you: revel in them. Grow. Gift the world with your joy and your accomplishments. Do what you know in your heart to be right.  You are getting so much less time that you expect. Work hard to know what makes you happy; who is important; where you need to be. Your goodbyes are coming so much sooner than you believe. Rush into love, wherever you find it, in each and every one of its myriad of forms. When you find it, let it set you on fire. Blaze with it. This is not a dress rehearsal, and you will never, ever be here again. Be here now. Now is all you’re ever going to get.

And ask yourself:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

(The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver)

J.M. Barclay

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Thoughts for Thursdays – The Bad Wolf & Anger

Have you heard the story of the two wolves yet?

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil—he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?” The Elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I had saved this story somewhere, and I came across it again today while looking for something to write about. It resonated with me because I have spent the past few days struggling with many of the bad wolf’s feelings: anger, sorrow, regret, resentment…

I don’t think that it is fair to label any of these emotions ‘evil’ all on their own–life is simply not that black & white. I know that every emotion has something to tell you about what’s going on in your life. Anger, for example, is often the messenger that speaks to us of a loss of power, or a transgression of our boundaries. She is a powerful emotion that can allow us to jump into action. Anger is not evil all on her own–she is evil only when you spend too long feeding her. This is where I identify with the story of the bad wolf–I do not judge myself for my anger, but I know that if I feed her too much, too long, she might grow into a monster inside of me. Then an emotion that is natural, that provides self-awareness and insight into a situation, can become distorted into the big hungry bad wolf.

I have spent the past few days feeding the bad wolf. I imagine I’ll be spending a while longer feeding it, too. And when I am ready, I will be able to turn my energy towards the good wolf. Until then, I’ll keep the story of the wolves in mind as a reminder of who I would like to win the battle.

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Thoughts for Thursdays – UPDATE! + Laughter Yoga *you’ll giggle!*

I’m a little out of words today (it’s been a long year) so I thought I’d keep it all short and simple. I like the idea of this quote because it is infinitely flexible and can shed a ray of light on to the kind of life you might like to lead. Given that I have (always) been on a journey to try to work out what exactly it is that I want my life to look like, this struck a chord with me. It was a simple phrase to which I responded: “Yes”.

Giving a “yes” so unreservedly is difficult for me when it comes to life–I’m often too busy being unsure, second guessing, and asking myself  “is this what will really make me happy?”, and not knowing how to answer that question. But this quote made me realize that there are many aspects of life to which I can answer “Yes”–they may not be questions like “Do you want to follow a career in [insert career choice here]”, but they are meaningful questions that, together, might allow me to build my life from the inside out. And given that I seem unable to pick out the big stuff (where to live, what to do), answering yes to some smaller, and yet incredibly important questions, might, one by one, lead me in the right direction. So…

If you are too busy to laugh, you are too busy. Yes. 

If you are too busy to listen to a friend, you are too busy. Yes.

If you are too busy to get out of the city, you are too busy. Yes.

If you are too busy to go to France, you are too busy. Yes. 

If you are too busy to walk your dog, you are too busy. Yes.

What about you? What is so important to you that if you are too busy to do it, you are simply too busy?

Are you too busy to giggle at this?


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