Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Keep going!

I saw a picture a bit like this on Facebook this morning (only it was pointing up a mountain) and found it touched me surprisingly deeply as I realised I am really quite tired. And I had several other quick realisations flash through my mind along with the, 'Oh heck, yes, I am tired from the feeling of keeping on keeping on keeping on...' I also had, ‘How far to the top now?’ And, 'Maybe I am not headed in the right direction? And, ‘Why is this feeling so hard?’ And then, 'Oh, of course....!' The thing is, I have been headed up a mountain for some time - many years in fact - yet finally reached the top of it three years ago, gratefully and delightedly. And I could suddenly see clearly that I now am doing the next necessary thing; coming down this mountainside in order to go up the next one. Even if all your peaks are high in the clouds, you have to come down from one in order to ascend to the next, let alone if you are now coming down to be ‘home’ for a bit, and to make plans for your next expedition.

The only way is down now....
Why do I say down is harder? Well, I learned this painfully, and slightly embarrassingly, about 5 years ago. Having gone a day early to the Alexander Technique Congress in Lugano in Switzerland, I took the funicular railway to the top of a 1000m mountain overlooking Lake Lugano, intending to walk down. Not big by mountain standards, and being summer not covered in snow, it was going to be easy; after all, the hotel owner had said so, and ‘just don’t wear party shoes’! Hot sunny day, spirits high from admiring the view from the top, I set off down the winding shallow steps which I intended to count. At about 750 I gave up the counting and started the self-motivation. After about 2 hours I came to a clearing where I could see the turquoise lake below me - the ferryboats on it like tiny dots; I was still as high as in an aeroplane! Somewhat daunted I wondered about going back up and taking the funicular down, but I didn’t want to give in; this was downhill! So I carried on, and when I finally - another 2 hours later - came to the bottom, I had an surprisingly elated sense of achievement. Of course, when I told my ‘mountain experienced’ friends the tale, they explained how it is much, much harder on the legs to descend than ascend. I was ready to agree wholeheartedly as I hobbled around the Congress on day one; a ‘poised’ teacher of nearly 30 years who had to actually (quite true) go down the five steps to the ladies’ loo on her bottom because I could not do it on my feet! Four days later, after the general afternoon-off from Congress, I knew exactly who had spent the time doing the same ‘walk’ as me, as I helped them down the same steps on their bottoms!

So I am grateful for this morning's picture which reminded me that we need to see this sign on the way down, too - in fact on any path, including one following a time of dreams, effort, and achievement. On the path between goals and dreams, on the path back home. Yes, “The journey up may be hard, but the best view is from the top” is a wise saying, but believe me, the view of that lake at eye-level was just as good, if not better! Suddenly I knew, after seeing the picture this morning, that the reason the path currently feels hard is because I have been, in effect, walking down that 'achieved mountain' backwards!
I have been going back down but still facing the peak I have looked at for so long, despite having attained it, and also because I have been forgetting that ‘down’ has as much merit as ‘up'. Out of pure habit (oh dear!) I have forgotten to stop, wake up fully to the now, and change my view! Oh, how much easier it is to walk facing the way I am going, the way down whilst clarifying my plans for the next peak!! 

No matter which way you are pointing, let's bless up, and bless down, and let’s also bless all the bits in the middle; all of them with great big ‘Keep Going’ signs!

Friday, 5 July 2013

The House Whose Face Fell Off.

This is a piece I wrote in 1996, and have just found again after thinking it was lost. I remember so clearly the images that came to me which called me to pen and paper. 

The House Whose Face Fell Off. 

The house was beautiful - elegant and proud - raising its lovely frontage to the world, promising beauty and grace within, and joy for anyone who came inside. It coloured a warm cream, with great windows allowing great light to enter, strong curtains gracing the edges of the panes, showing opulence and taste. However, the door was always closed, which surprised those looking on; the whole place looked so welcoming, but the door never seemed to open; perhaps people came and went from the back?

One day, with a great noise, part of the frontage fell leaving a great jagged, diagonal wound running from the house’s top right to its bottom left. Behind it was a shocking contrast. The grey, black, dark horror of a war-zone. A war-zone long gone, but which was stirred occasionally by faint bangs and rumbles of a ghost of battle, or remnants of some stubborn soldiers who refused to leave - although the intent of their damage was more than obviously accomplished - as if they so enjoyed it, they couldn’t go. The walls of this house within were blackened by fire and blast, and the windows empty like eyes in great shock. The house seemed to cower in shame and fear at being opened to light again after so long - embarrassed and fearful at being revealed. The rubble and dirt began to clear away - sometimes in great chunks, and sometimes seeming to be only piece by tiny piece of dust particle. At times great progress appeared to be made, but at times it seemed the secret of what had happened, and what it hid, wanted to stay buried forever.

Suddenly, a wall of stone fell away and revealed a small child cowering in the far corner of a blackened room. She had been cowering for who knows how long. It was not just the cowering from suddenly being covered in light, it was the cowering of being afraid and shameful to be seen to exist. Whatever had happened to that child had destroyed her so, so many years ago.Yet despite her terror, her hurt, pain and guilt, which she felt showed so strongly in the battered remains of her facade, she had found the strength to build the beautiful looking frontal to her dwelling place. Such tragic mis-use of strength. She had assumed that people looking at her real, damaged house would have believed it to be her fault, and were embarrassed and angry at her for it looking thus; the area wanted good looking places. She had been too afraid to ask for help to re-build the old - to have the army that attacked her to be removed; somehow she believed herself to have deserved it. For years she had hidden behind the beautiful but empty grandness of the creamy building. She had successfully led the onlookers to believe in her strength and security, but now they understood why the door was always shut.

How long would it take the little girl to gather the courage and trust to come out of her corner? They knew she couldn’t trust them yet; somewhere out here were the original persecutors and she mustn’t put herself in that position again. But the walls were down and the light, the glorious sunlight, and the clean, clean air were with her at last, and she had all the time she needed to grow and stand strong again. To become a genuinely beautiful house with real welcoming windows, and an opening door to let people in, and out.
(20th June 1996)