It is the end of the second week in January. I look outside and see a thick blanket of mist covering the countryside, visibility only possible within the boundaries of our property. It might clear to be a beautiful sunny Winter’s day later, but the weather forecast sounds gloomy. It is hard to be upbeat when the weather and climate are bearing down on you … but I have learned that bearing down also means birth, and that is learned wisdom that life is and has been teaching me every single day, for years.
I have never ever been as stressed nor as pressed down as I have been since returning to live in Great Britain eleven years ago. I have experienced all sorts of pressure in a range of situations in city, country, suburb, in homelife, school life, work life, in South Africa, in England, in Scotland, in Australia … but never before have I known so much that can come against a person like a wave of heavy and unrelenting, insipid warfare. It is the continual nature of the burden that astounds me, and it is the length of time that I have endured it that blows my mind.
How can anyone survive living in survival mode for year upon year upon year, and still be sane?
How can anyone who appears normal, whose life shines in many different ways, yet behind the scenes is battling wave after wave after wave of unfamiliarity, insecurity or oppression, keep breathing and speaking of ‘light’ and ‘hope’ and ‘love’ and ‘strength’ … I wonder?
My only conclusion is that my genes are strong, my mind is formidable and my God is supernatural. I hang onto God’s every word and I see his messages all around me, strengthening, validating, guiding … a rope without which I could not cope. I have never counted giving up as a real option. There is always something more to do, something more to focus on, something more to fight for, someone else needing a hand up, a little light on their path … that is why I am still here. Otherwise, I might have given up a long, long time ago.
But, Life is not meant to be so hard. We are not designed to be ‘pregnant’ for ever. We are designed for lots of things, but permanent pregnancy is not one of them. Childbirth is not possible year upon year upon year upon year … eventually the elasticity departs and the fibre snaps.
So, how do I go on? How do I keep breathing and tip toeing forward? Dolly step progress is the way right now, strides having proved utterly impossible for some time, due to nerve collapse in 2006 … hopefully, not forever though. Hopefully soon the picking away at mountains will release a flow of golden grace and the rewards of sheer hard work will begin to manifest.
When you have been in one storm after another, one wave after another, one battle after another, you become scarred and battle fatigued. Some people are scarred, some are battle fatigued, some are both. I know both. I also know Victory … and that is the bit that I have always liked best. I love to win a race, to make a difference, to lift others up, to shine in what I do.
The Bible says that we shall “know a man by his fruit” (or a woman, of course). We ‘know’ others by what they put out into their world and by how they appear – none of us can see inside another to know who they truly are. Thus, it is outwardly that we identify those with whom we are comfortable and those with whom we wish to do life, in the work arena or in life outside the money-earning ‘daily grind’. We look at appearance, we listen to speech, we tune into one another’s dream talk, we look at statistics and other results, even use our sense of smell, and we develop a taste for or against the life experiences that are or might be shared.
During my time living in the United Kingdom again, after a fourteen year stint in Australia (which I thought was going to be longterm, in more ways than one), many of my choices and preferences have been challenged, removed, squeezed or squashed. Things that shock me or are my concerted choice to avoid, have been presented on a plate to deal with, whether I (consciously?) chose them or not. I have been forced to manage a number of different matters and things in unfamiliar territory, in a range of unfamiliar and challenging ways. It has been hard. All of it has been hard, and I am tired.
The climate in Britain has been a major test, and I have not been abroad since 2007, nor had a proper rest or relaxing holiday since that time. Despite the inability to step off the escalator, at the best of times one has been able to suck the juice out of every experience and to rejoice in every sunshiney day … learned optimism to one who is an Optimist already, one more rung of expertise learned on the ladder of Life.
I am, by no means, a depressive nor a negative person. However, to be perfectly honest, I can become desperately depressed when I look at how things have turned out thus far and how so little of my life and ‘achievements’ have reflected where I imagined my life was leading and would be by now. Indeed, reading bits of a journal written in London during the late 1980s, I was recently reminded of those who knew me well referring to me as having a ‘golden touch’ and ‘star quality’, who could see my star rising and could even see me on a stage … The years since have not quite delivered on those. At least, not fully, not yet.
What of the fruit then? When you reach the age that I am now, one hopes that there are another fifty years left to grow and to harvest more fruit – one does one’s best to focus on the distinct possibility that there might be. With my own children now in early life flight, we are at similar stages in so many ways. For a quarter of a century, I have poured my life into raising my children; my teaching has been relentless and they are each mirrors of what has been invested into their lives from (and before) birth. These two precious people, my daughter and my son, reflect so many of my inner values and they are strong to the core. I thank God for that and know that I cannot claim their personalities as being my own trademark … they are both stamped by the force that enables me to overcome, to reach for and to practise excellence, to be morally on course and to leave things better than we found them. This is fruit.
There is a great deal of research going on at the moment around the power of each person to change our brain health and life course, with intention and practice and the right frame of mind. I am very interested in this subject, as it offers hope to so many people who have not yet found the flow or who are finding it hard to keep afloat in all sorts of ways, in this modern world. I have seen and know first hand how our attitudes to life and circumstances, past or present, can greatly affect physical results, and therefore it intrigues me to see and to hear that Scientists and medical doctors are professing to have found something truly lifesaving ‘in our own heads’. The Bible, of course, was the first to describe how we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds”. This subject is sure to keep growing fruit … perhaps in my writing and life too.
When the temptation arises to feel down on ourselves or our achievements, or lack of them, it is important to stop, to find within ourselves the love that we seek outside, and to breathe. We cannot control anyone else and we cannot control what others or climates or Nature might do, but we can each manage our responses to those. First, we must learn to be compassionate towards ourselves, and to allow ourselves permission to rest a while, to be less than ‘perfect’, to be real, and to be who we are … to take stock.
Of late, I have found myself becoming less and less able to tolerate anything that goes against what might otherwise be called ‘flow’, and it has angered me. Righteous anger is energy that can be used as a ‘fruit’ that brings about transformation, but it is also a flame that can start a fire that we do not wish to reap the consequences of … “we reap what we sow” is a statement with a warning attached. Our seeds, watered, become our fruit. I am conscious of the passing of time, and I do not like waste. This keeps the mind focused on moving forward, and helps one to achieve results, even tiny and seemingly insignificant ones. Thus, I will find value even in anger, when it arises – the challenge being to channel it correctly.
Our lives reflect much that we believe about ourselves, and they reflect the circumstances that we find ourselves in. We can each alter certain aspects of our lives by becoming aware of the fruit, and making sure that we are planting the right seeds. Sooner or later, our harvests will come and then we will be more than amply rewarded for what we have sown.
In hope and trust and strength,
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