Christmas is an odd time of the year. It seems to focus so many feelings, and seems to encourage the time to put on those tinted glasses. Not just the rose-coloured ones where we may view our childhood Christmases or the darkened ones where we may remember things with despair.
For me I think of those people I haven’t received a card from – the sister of my step-father who was always the first card to arrive but she is now dead, the friend of my mum’s who was often the second card to arrive who has had a fall and has been on life support in hospital and at the moment cannot move or speak, the friends who have moved and we’ve lost touch, the family of ex-husbands who no longer keep in touch – and one often wonders if they have died, the always late and badly written card from my sister which of course will not come now – and never one from her husband who is now remarried or her 25 year old son who is a typical 25 year old boy when it comes to keeping touch. It can bring me down and make me wish I had know when it was going to be those last Christmasses. Would I have done anything different in December 2011 when we’d gathered with my sister’s family? I’m not sure I would have. Would I have phoned my step-father’s sister more often if I’d know when she’d not be with us? Would Christmas 2012 have been any different knowing that by Christmas 2013 by father-in-law would not be with us? To be totally honest I don’t think it would have been.
I had an email from a older friend of mine who says she finds it hard visiting as she sees the deterioration in many of her friends and wonders if it will be their last Christmases together. So she does make a difference; she makes sure she turns out over the Christmas holidays to see them, puts it in her diary to visit more often, and most importantly is grateful that she is still fit and well and able to get about and prays that it will continue.
So how will writing help? Well instead of bottling up those feelings write. Write to those people who aren’t with you any more – whether dead or alive. Tell them what you think of them and how you are feeling with them not being around. Tell them how much you’ve done in the last year. Read it out to them as thought they are sitting with you. Who knows they might even be listening? Write down all the good things you remember and don’t worry if the rose-tinted glasses are on. Enjoy the good memories. Again read it out loud. Say thank you to whatever you believe maybe listen – God, the dog, the chair, Mother Earth, etc. Write down a list of things you are grateful for this year – even if it is that you can write things down. When you think of the impossible write it down too and again speak it out. There’s nothing wrong in hoping for what might not happen but don’t let it make you overwhelmed by what will not be. Write what your perfect Christmas would be then even look at what things you can do to make that happen. Remember that you cannot make everyone cheerful but you can make sure you don’t let their grumps get you down. And if they do take yourself off and write about it.
Make this Christmas a time when you compose some cool poems that talk of the joy and sadness of your Christmas – past, present and future. Use that notebook that some well-meaning person got you years ago that you’ve never thrown away and just write and see how that will change things for you.
As we were reminded in our Advent reading this morning Jesus didn’t come down to change things but to walk with us in them.
A Lapidus friend of mine is doing workshops based around the Ubuntu philosophy and I must say I heard it and then let it go until last Saturday when she said it again at the Lapidus conference. Her definition of Ubuntu is “I am because we are” but in a longer definition …
Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the core of ubuntu can best be summarised as follows:
“ ‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”
To me this sums up what Christianity should be all about and what Richard Rohr has been talking about over various weeks; of coming to a place of maturity where we know we are connected with everyone else. This is where we get to the place where we can weep with those who weep, laugh with those who laugh, etc. It is not about being super empathetic, or about being able to put are own moods and feelings behind us, but it about knowing – yes knowing not just thinking or hoping or wanting to be – that I am only because everyone else is, that I am a person through other people.
In reality even though I have somethings that are unique to me I am a combination of parental genes, of experiences that have happened to me which always include people. I am a mix of nature and nurture but all come from a collective of other people.
I feel that in some forms of Christianity we shun this. Too often it is us and them: those who are in/said the prayer/made a commitment and those who are out and who don’t believe in Jesus/God etc. Too often I have seen in Christianity that Christians are told to reach out to them and not to imagine that the unbeliever doesn’t have anything to offer. I have learned so much about life, me, God from people who don’t have a believe in God.
In the Anglican service at communion we say “Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread” and in fact are accepting the concept of “I am because we are” without acknowledging it. In fact there are many different denominations who would not want to think they are part of the Anglican community. I have lived in towns that have a Churches Together group where certain denominations won’t be part of it because certain others are. Together but on their own terms.
I think that we need to embrace this concept of Ubuntu and realise that we are because of others. Not like the Borg from Star Trek where we are all assimilated into the same thing – and like I have heard is being though of to get rid of racial hatred. Yes it has been said that if we distil our cultures and all live in mixed areas that would get rid of racial hatred. I live in North Wales and as I have talked with people about their culture I have noticed that the more they are able to express who they are and their culture so they are more content to accept other people.
In fact I think this is the true concept of Ubuntu for me. I can be truly me if I let you be truly you. And as I have reached this point in this post I have realised I have come back to a concept I was exploring a while a go – “Love your neighbour as yourself” – and the whole idea that I cannot love my neighbour unless I love myself, and I cannot let others be truly who they are unless I am truly who I am. But also I have to realise that I am connected to them whether I know them or not and that they have an influence on me as I have a influence on them.
Just recently I have been asked by a lovely young woman if I will be her “older Christian friend”. I was very touched and said “yes” and then didn’t think much more about it. God gave me a nudge and convicted me that I need to be seeing her regularly to do some proper discipleship stuff. So I prayed and I pondered and set a regular day and time that works for both of us. I felt God saying that instead of it just being random stuff we should do some Bible study and let the life stuff come from there. So last week we chatted about stuff. I suggested reading a certain book of the Bible but she suggested Romans. Oh my, thought I, I don’t like Romans, but I let it go and thought I’d go with it.
Well!!! I have now read the first 3 chapters, which was what we said we’d read this week, and it has been amazing. I have found something in those first 3 chapters I never saw before but it has totally deepened how I see God. it has been amazing. Now if I’d been bossy and decided I was the “older” one and so knew so much more where to start and how to do this I would have missed out on so much. Because I acquiesced I have grown in my relationship with God – just in less than a week! Blessed for acquiescing? Maybe 🙂
Too often in my own Christian walk when I have had people want to walk with me there has been a rub because they have wanted to “teach” me things and I have felt they haven’t heard from me. This has not always been the case but for me, the relationships I’ve learned the most from are the ones that I don’t realise the people were discipling or teaching me things. Perhaps I’m just a bit perverse, or some might say proud, but I do need to feel that I am on an equal place with people which is probably why I act the way I do with the younger people who get placed on my path.
When I use to facilitate youth groups, if they were small enough, I would let them have as much autonomy as possible. At one group we ran it like the adult group where the teenagers would bring along food to share. To begin with parents would make the food or buy or be surprised that I didn’t make it all but the teenagers felt like it was their group because they shared the food they had made. It is where I have struggle with larger groups where the leaders have felt they should give to the teens and actually the teens have felt they should be given to.
For me this whole discipling/teaching thing goes both ways in all I do. In my writing workshops I learn as much as I teach. I have gathered some liked minded creative people around me to put on a Christmas play. Now I am more than capable to write it all but actually I have got each actor writing their own piece from their character’s point of view. And again I am learning so much.
There is so much blessing in allowing others to teach you as you teach them 🙂
Ok so the title of this pieces comes from the stages of a woman’s life and once past menopause she can embrace being a Crone. Crone has bad connotations. She is seen as the wicked witch in fairy tales, as bad tempered and disappointed with life, as old and wrinkled. Well I am seeing myself and other friends as we move into this third stage of life finding our calling, being able to get on and do what we want. We have reach a point where our children are independant or becoming that way. They need us less and less. But also we are starting to be bold and to step out. The fear has gone. It’s like nothing can hold us back.
I know I will speak for myself because I can really only speak for me but with this whole Barefoot At The Kitchen Table stuff. I could not have done it 10 years ago. Why? Well not just because I was home schooling 2 children but because I would not have been brave enough. Today I was on local radio – blogged here Radio Tudno – so I won’t repeat it. A couple of weeks ago I went to a local arts community centre to talk about what I do. I spoke clearly and competently. I was not fazed by anything. I know a few years ago, even though I would have tried to be confident I would have been talking too fast and messing up what I was going to say. I do still talk fast. I’m a person who will always talk fast because I have a lot of words in my head that really only become sentences when they fall out of my mouth so I have to say them fast to give them chance to organise themselves 🙂 Tomorrow I’m off to talk about what I do with a local conference centre that’s opening in April. Again a few years ago I would not have been bold enough to do this.
But it’s not just me. A home schooling friend of mine, who’s children are flying the nest, has been able to get more and more involved in her passion for no-dig gardening and will be publishing a book about it all soon. Another person who not only found her passion as her children moved on but, like myself, the doors seemed to open then. And there is another friend of a similar age who is now off on mission journeys into India, to the Calais Jungle and on the streets of the town where she lives. Again like myself and my gardening friend she’s up and ready for it but like us both she is starting to make connections with the right people, move in the right circles, be bold enough to step out.
I am sure there are more who are reaching this third stage, this crone stage, who may not be embracing the name crone but are embracing the fact that now they are releasing their children they can fly too. It is exciting to be chasing dreams. I’m pleased it’s not just me but that I have some travelling companions, even if they are doing it their different fields.
Perhaps that is why crones were seen as witches – because now they can fly unhindered 🙂
Ok so the title was going to be about focus again but I thought I’ve used that before so would try something new. I’m feeling a bit down. I had a bit of a not reprimand but just a feeling of screwing up when I sent out an advertising for my writing workshops on a new email group I’m part of. It left me a bit low. Also we are having our first long time Airbnb guests after the hard work guests of a couple of weeks ago. I am feeling apprehensive.
I was giving myself a talking to whilst out walking the dog this morning. I was telling myself that we have had way too many lovely guests so why am I letting one 3 night stay discombobulate me so much? And also with this reprimand regarding advertising – why am I letting it get to me when I have so many people supporting me and this whole writing workshops stuff is growing so fast? Then I remembered something a friend had said to me ages ago about how much easier it is to get down about something than up. The analogy was of someone standing on a chair and someone else reaches up to them and of how it is much easier for someone to pull the other person down off the chair than it is for the one on the chair to pull someone up. Down is an easier place to go.
In our well-being group yesterday one of the things that came out of my facilitating for me was that we have to all be our own cheerleaders. It is great to have other people rooting for us and we do need that mightily but if we do not have that self-belief then no amount of others cheering us on will ever get us anywhere. Yes to get to where I am now with Barefoot At The Kitchen Table I have needed a host of people to encourage me from my lovely friend Penny, to Theresa at Canolfan Dewi Sant Centre for booking me in the first place, to Clara and her business coaching, to Mark walking me to do things at Gwrych Castle, to the lovely people who come every week to my workshops. I needed all of those to get me to here but if I had just said to Theresa “great idea and I’ll think about it” I could still be here thinking about it. If after talking with Clara I had not then done anything about it I would still be sitting here thinking. And so on and so forth. I have now got an opportunity to go on local radio, to work in a local arts and community centre, to discuss ideas for working in a local hotel, and more. Even from making a mistake with advertising on this new emailing group too soon has meant I have learned something – but also have 2 people who are interested in coming along. Nothing wasted.
Oh I’ve just given myself the pep talk I should have earlier on 🙂 I do need to remember that I am a writer and that is how I think. I love walking with the dog and talking to God as I go but actually when it comes to sorting out life, etc then I do need to write. Which brings me to the question of that self-belief but also self-knowledge. We all have to know how we can problem solve that works best for us as individuals. If I walk and talk and think I get somewhere but when I write I get answers. For other people it is the other way round. But again this comes from self-belief. In fact I walked out of a craft day put on by a lovely new friend of mine, Dee of Poke the Muse, because it was craft based rather than writing based and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing.
And now I feel confident in who I am. I’ll make mistakes because I often think too fast but then I would rather have made mistakes and learned than never to have tried at all.
Well there were repercussions from the Airbnb guests that I mentioned in my last post. They wrote a very damming review about their stay. Needless to say it really upset me. I think I was still feeling vulnerable from their time with us anyway. What upset me most about the review was that most of what they said was not true. Anyway I got on to the Airbnb community forum. Well what an amazing bunch of people. No one made me feel daft for having let them stay and everyone who responded to my post was helpful. Airbnb said that unfortunately they could not take the review down because it didn’t quite break their guidelines. But with the help of the online community from around the world I was able to put up a succinct response to the review which actually, so the community said, took the sting out of the review and gave me the higher ground. And also helped others to see that here was someone just ranting. But it took me a while to potter through all this and come out feeling ok.
Being a well-being writer I of course did my own journaling and explored my thoughts and feelings about what had happened via writing. I realised that I got upset because it was not true and I did not like someone saying things that were untrue. As always timing is amazing and I was meeting with my spiritual director and so I told him all this. His response was that we all feel like that, which I sort of know to be true, and that it was ok.
On Monday I was facilitating a writing for well-being group and it came up about the glass half full/glass half empty explanation for pessimist and optimist, when someone said that in an Eastern philosophy (sorry I forget where) they talk about emptying yourself so that you can be filled. So with that thought an optimist would be someone who was happy to be a glass totally empty. But then I thought Jesus talks of us being like streams of living water and of how we need to be constantly emptying ourselves so He can fill us. Very similar philosophy. I can hold on to my half full glass and oscillate, as most of us do, between feeling like glass is half empty or half full. Or I can go to that total place of letting go where I am happy to give away everything in my glass and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill it.
As I’ve had time to chew this over I have realised that I had to look at the guests from the weekend as ones who did drain me and leave me empty but that then I had a choice what I filled up with. I could have filled up with fear and not ever hosted anyone again unless they were people we knew. I could have filled up with anger and responded from that place both on the response to the review and in a message to the man himself. I could have filled up with hopelessness and just sat and cried. Instead I chose to fill up with forgiveness for the man for being so defensive and so angry, with hope that actually the world is full of some really lovely people who I want to met and I will carry on host and a joy about the world.
Mind you this does not come about by being on my own. The Airbnb Community Forum helped as did various open and honest posts on Facebook from my daughter, from a friend whose total openness about his struggle with his sexuality was amazing, but not just that but the love with which his friends responded. As well as friends I have who are willing to let me be myself and my spiritual director, and my time being able to walk with my dog and think and ponder with God. And also we have just had two Airbnb guests who’ve stayed who have been totally lovely and have reminded me why we do this. So it is by community that we survive and can choose.
So I have to sometimes empty myself and let those who support me, whether I know they are or not, fill me with hope and wisdom and peace. And I do often think when this happens that the Kingdom of God is bigger than just those who profess to be Christians 🙂
Oh I am so rubbish at setting boundaries. I find it so difficult. Maybe I wasn’t taught well as a child? Maybe very few of us get taught how to do it? Anyway it seems that this is the journey I am on at the moment – learning how to set boundaries calmly and firmly without losing it!
This weekend we’ve had those guests staying that really do need boundarying in. This has been a tough weekend. And today I have had to charge them for staining a mattress. And also when I did challenge them he actually, I felt, was quite passive aggressive toward me. Oh man I found it so hard not to be passive aggressive myself back again and not to say “it’s fine” when they offered to pay for the mattress. So yes I did manage to charge them for at least my cleaning time and didn’t lose my temper. But now I am shaking like a leaf and want to cry. I know its silly. Like this is my house, my business, my life, and I have got myself in a pickle being firm to people in my house. But it was so hard.
Mind you I can think of loads of places where I give in and go with people and then try to put my boundaries in later and really screw up and do the whole passive aggressive bit, or even really shout. Actually it isn’t so much their fault, though I may have felt my boundaries have been violated, but sometimes it is because I have not been clear. Too busy people pleasing!!!
With my new venture of facilitating writing workshops I again have to set firm boundaries or I could easily get either carried away and do too much or not be willing to do something because of someone putting me down. I have to work out my life balance. I have things I have to do and things I can do and I have to learn what I can fit into my day and still be me. I need to also find time to write and plan and also just to hang out.
There are some amazing books out there about setting boundaries – which I have read – but actually it isn’t till you have to set them, and then have opposition to them that you realise how you are. Oh yes it is easy for me to set boundaries whether with the Airbnb rooms (yes we are up to 2 now) or with the writing workshops when people are playing ball with them, or even if they give them a bit of a push but when I say “No that’s it” they affirm me. The Airbnb guest being aggressive toward me upset me. Not because he had done it but because I realise how fragile I am about holding on to my boundaries.
So this weekend was hard work. I made some mistakes with the guests, with my husband, with myself, but I have learned a lot through it. And for me learning is always the greatest thing. I am not perfect but I am always learning. This weekend was good – even if there is now a horrid mess that needs cleaning!!! And loads of washing that need doing!! And guests that are arriving soon. – So why am I posting this? Because I told myself I need to publish something on my blog and so I that is also my boundary for me and my writing today.
(Lots of amazing boundary quotes pinched from various places 🙂 )