The Crone and I

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“All futures are tinted by the way in which you choose to view them.” Cat Hellisen ‘Mother, Crone, Maiden’

 

What image pops into your head when you hear the word ‘crone’? What characteristics do you associate with this female archetype? Does she remind you of the 3 witches in ‘Macbeth’, ‘fire burn and cauldron bubble’? If so, is she repugnant to you?

I first encountered the Crone in ‘Women who run with the Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola EstesThis book is a study of the instinctual nature of women – a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing – and tells the story of 3 archetypes representing the stages of life – the Maiden, the Matron and the Crone. Of these archetypes, the Crone jumped out at me, calling me like a kindred spirit. I was 22.

The Crone is present in the myths of different cultures such as Baba Yaga in Slavic, Annis in Celtic, Elli in Nordic, and Kali Ma in Indian mythologies. For me, the Crone has never been the ugly old witch, in modern-day parlance. Neither is she beauty, especially ‘beauty’ as espoused in contemporary society.

The Crone represents a woman of wisdom, the old and wise one; she is an ageless Wisdom Goddess.

Wise woman

This image has stayed with me for a very long time.  Yes, I have been gently teased or unkindly mocked.  Comments like “you are born 40 after all”, “you are an old soul”, “you are all too serious”, “be careful you may become boring”. Well, perhaps I am one, some or all of these, honestly I do not mind.

Through the years, I have learnt the Crone is light-hearted but never flippant, she is gentle not weak, she is healing not malevolence, she is ageless not old, she is wise not (necessarily) intellectual – what an inspiration!  So I continue to embody these qualities… and the journey so far has been a blast! 🙂

Like the Pilgrim in Annie Dillard’s novel ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them…

Women’s life, like the moon, wax and wane.  Let us embrace, revere and honour her – the Crone in our lives – for she must come to pass.

~ FlorenceT

Apocalyptic movie or documentary?

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The promise of a movie night, with a simple dinner and a little sugar-filled treat we had bought for later. All seemed in place. She picked an apocalyptic movie – humanity’s only survivors from a climate disaster on a train to nowhere under the control of the greedy in power.

Twenty minutes in and I’d had enough. The portrayal of violent, selfish and evil people causing pain and suffering was too much for me to handle. She said I was ‘soft’. I laughed. “I don’t need to see the horrors humans can inflict on other humans”, I said.

If he had been here, I would have been mocked for the ‘loss’ of movie night. He wasn’t, and there was no loss. We decided to watch David Attenborough’s “Planet Earth”, again.

And what a pleasant gratifying experience that was!  To be reminded that
• our vast world still sustains us, even as we humans continue to test its limits;
• the natural world still holds many mysteries and wonders so let’s be humble;
• we ought not lose sight of or interest in this world we inhabit for it has much to teach us;
• we and the world beyond the boundaries of human-made structures are inter-dependent, and the survival of one is reliant on the other.

Sitting with her on the couch watching this documentary felt right. I had moved away years before from “indulging” in pain and suffering, the overcoming of which is worn as a badge of honour. No. There is more to my life than that. And no, I was not avoiding the reality of life.

I am aware of the trauma that can be life. I have experienced some of that. I am also privileged not to have experienced the worst of it. But as was told to me by a wise woman those years ago, “where you expend your energy, that is what you feed”. The media creation of need to consume the worst of humanity, the normalising of voyeuristic, and perhaps narcissistic, tendency to feed upon the plight of others – not where I intend to be.

As James Redfield said, “[E]nergy flows where attention goes.” And so where I can help, I do. Where I can’t, I choose not to energize.

But I told her none of this, only relaxing into the moment of a Saturday evening at home. We discussed natural history and geography, theory of evolution, the behaviour of the male species in the animal kingdom (humans included)… 🙂 and much more.

I was content that we were not expending our energy on a movie focussed on the darker side of the human condition, which propagated the narrative that fighting is the way to success and freedom, and being physically tough and psychically hard were the only ways to be. She wasn’t, not in that moment, further indoctrinated into the cynicism and distrust that can fuelled our existence.

Granted “Planet Earth” had its gory scenes of predator and prey, life and death. I was fine for her to see the cycle of life, the natural order of things if you like. To appreciate the black, white and grey areas of living. It gave me great comfort that nature knows what to do to survive, so long as we humans do not impose our will on it.

I was not ‘soft’, not in the sense of being weak and scared. I was perhaps just tired of the perpetual narrative of fight, dominance, ‘toughness’, and pessimism on the inevitable plight of the human experience. I have no wish to spend more minutes on negativity and pain. “Be like water” comes to mind. Flow and leave your mark.

Maybe I was over-thinking it, putting words to the experience. The feeling of my body constricting during twenty minutes of the movie, in contrast to the sense of peace and inspiration of the documentary, the choice was clear.

So I am soft, in choosing to be positive, to expend my energy on matters which lift and on creatures of beauty, to contribute to a positive consciousness.

What would you do?

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

We touch lives…

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It was masked in righteous indignation and criticism because they were easier to tap into. The holier-than-thou feeling of ‘how could people not see this’, and ‘how could they be so mean’… The suppositions that everyone ought to see or be, and when they don’t, their actions were intentionally hurtful…

I noticed moments after they arose what IT actually was, this surge of aggression that welled up.

A mentee contacted me seeking help to address a bureaucratic process which compelled her to “prove” she was financially unable to meet a required fee. This fee would impact on whether she could pursue her career or not. Now, providing documentation in support is no big deal, guess we are all so used to supplying proof that we would hardly blink.

The reply she had received was a template email reply, which failed to respond to her request and the reasons she provided. The reasons for her financial hardship told of an estranged relationship, a proud family getting by, a neglectful father, the indignities of abandonment and much more. How does one provide proof of these? Do we require bank statements showing minimal balance? Do we require proof of the anxious feelings of insecurity and sorrow? Do we put a fellow human being through greater indignity and embarrassment? If someone had taken the time to make a phone call, her voice over the line spoke volumes, as I found out.

I needed to know ‘why’ for the impersonal reply and was told it was sent because she could have been lying and that she might be taking advantage of the system. Thus, by implication she was required to overcome this baseline by “proving her case”.

Two days of emotional processing later (subconsciously it would seem as the matter resolved that day and I didn’t think much of it after), I realised over and above the anger, I was sad.

I was sad that we have been “programmed” to expect the worse of another, to have a baseline from which we had to prove we are good and worthy.

I was sad that we are “programmed” to see our work as isolated from our environment, as a means to an end of just making a living, and to not see that our actions however small they may be and wherever we may be located, impact on another person.

When did we learn to disassociate our humanness from the industrious machine we call ‘work’?

As Maya Angelou said,

Your legacy is what you do every day. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped, that’s your legacy.

If we had taken time to put ourselves in another’s shoes and to mindfully exercise the empathy we are all capable of, we would realise few would create a family story such as that told to me. If we had stopped to have a real conversation, we would not have assumed the worse and prejudged the situation.

And in the failure to attend to the interactions and the relationships, we lose the opportunity to stay true to our humanness.

So in spite my anger and sadness, I believe we are not inherently mean nor are we intentionally hurtful, few are. Yet our unthinking and not-mindful actions can hurt.

We can choose to engage with and to make a positive difference to another’s life.

  1. Pay attention.

Behind every letter, email, text message, and in every conversation… there is a person and a story. Pay attention to it.

Listen, truly listen with a compassionate heart and an open mind. In that moment, be prepared and seek to understand.

  1. Be mindful.

Let go of judgment of another or what they may think of us. Attend to the person, not your idea of the person. Choose to be mindful to every word, every gesture, every pause, … they are meaningful.

Let go of time as the arbiter of our actions, there is always more time. Easier said than done, I agree though it is not undo-able. Perhaps we’ll be inspired by what’s next.

  1. Stop, know this.

What we do is not just about us, our efficiency, our productivity, our task completion. What we do impacts on another person, what we do influences the culture in which we work and how we live.

Kindness shown is always felt, and more likely to inspire kindness.

 

Not everyone has to do “great things” to make a difference; every one of us can do small things with love and that makes a difference to those we come in contact with.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

 

I hope, but I don’t think so?

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Hope gets me up in the morning. The forecast may be rain and the sky looks gloomy, yet I move on with the day, with a sense that it’s okay and it’ll be alright. ‘It’ encompasses much – relationships with loved ones and friends, personal and professional lives, the present and the future.

Hope keeps me going forward into an uncertain future, for none truly knows what that will hold except it will be different from the vision we have in our minds. Yet it is this vision that speaks of the intangible essence of hope. I still have an idea of what tomorrow will bring. That there is a tomorrow and it will be sunny in one form or another.

Hope is usually unspoken and often taken for granted. It is not measurable – though many of us would have heard of the ‘hope’ of making it big, being successful, being famous, of scaling Mt Everest… well, they are more aspirations than hope.

Hope is way more powerful than the mere attainment of goals.

Hope springs from our heart, the feeling of right-ness in the world in spite of its incomprehensible and reprehensible minutiae. It is the glimmer of light behind every cloud. Though we can’t see it now, we know it’s there. It is what underlies the belief that we can always start over, that we have the capacity to begin afresh. That at worse, no matter what happens, we will survive.

Then there are times when our minds, the greatest trickster, say “nah, I don’t think so”. We think it is impossible, too hard and unlikely to happen, too good to be true, too easy to be real…

Our rational minds, with memories of yesteryears collated and constructed into stories we can accept so our hearts, our psyche can no longer be threatened or broken. We make do. We settle. We lose hope and for some, hope is lost entirely. When our thoughts subsumed our hope and we no longer believe that it’ll be alright, then there is no point getting up in the morning. The dark clouds look like menacing monsters approaching; they feel like a persisting unbearable weight. There can be no glimmer of light behind that. This is the best it will ever get, and it ain’t pretty.

In as much as hope is a feeling from the heart, a deep sense of our belonging to this evolving world, it is also a practice of not letting the mind take over, of not allowing our minds default to the ugliness (as I call it) of life.

Increasingly, we are exposed to the underbelly of our world; the media’s choice of news based on fear and negativity, and sensationalised. In this climate, it is no wonder we are more likely to say “nah, I don’t think so” than “it’ll be alright”.

So, the choice is ours – to re-negotiate what we expose ourselves to and to redress the imbalance. The choice to read of wars and deaths and to practice gratitude, to decry and stand up against injustices and to show empathy and compassion, to expand our intellect and to reach into our hearts, to see each of our experience now in the long continuum of human existence, insignificant yet impactful.

What choice will you make? Does your voice contribute to the maintenance of hope?

 

Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.      ~ Lin Yutang

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

I exist…

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One must not only exist, one must be alive; live life to the fullest…

And so they say.

The narrative of striving and being more is around us, yet interpreted at times as an accumulation of status, power and material wealth.

Am I existing if I have the love of friends and family? Am I existing if I don’t have a dream? Am I existing if I am purposeful in my doing? Am I existing if I find meaning in my day-to-day life? Am I alive if I exist in the eyes of another? Am I alive if I find succor in nature? Am I alive in my aloneness?

What does existing really mean? What is at the intersect of existing and contentment?

 

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is
myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or
ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can
wait.

~ Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.