No Legacy is so Rich as Honesty

I have been struggling lately trying to find topics I could write about that I find engaging or inspiring. I have to feel passionate about the subject of my writing or else how can I possibly reach out to anyone reading my words? After all, whilst writing is for me primarily an escape valve for pain, frustrations and hopes, I also write because I have always felt this innate need to connect with other people on a much deeper level; to feel a ‘spiritual’ bond with like-minded individuals whose journey of discovery resonates with mine. Sharing how we truly feel and opening ourselves up to debate and being mighty challenged in our deeply rooted principles is the best way to avoid blind spots or prevent oneself from falling into tunnel vision. Truth and revelation is what I seek, not ego-stroking or adulation.

So this morning I was looking at some quotes and this quote by William Shakespeare really caught my attention. ‘No legacy is so rich as honesty’. A whole life could be summed up in those words. At a first glance, it would seem like a very tempting epitaph that looks impressive, but does not tell us much about a specific person, and yet on close inspection, the implications and consequences of a life lived with honesty with others and specially with ourselves, are infinite and forever transformative.

I often feel purposeless these days. Middle-aged woman whose two children have or are soon flying the nest. A job I fell into by life’s funny twists and turns, which far from fulfills me, but helps realize another person’s dream and in turn allows us to support other people’s dreams who are not as fortunate and privileged as we are. A love for writing that cannot be materialised because in order to do it justice and give it its best chance, I would have to drop everything and live solely for myself, neglecting the needs and hopes of those around me. Some people are able to do that, but as much as I would like to be that ruthless, I simply can’t do it. It is not how I am wired, and what is the point of pursuing the dream, if in doing so your dream becomes a nightmare because you are consumed with the guilt of having trampled upon all you have built up to that point; in doing so you trample upon the dreams and hopes of those who have been entrusted to you? I believe in the power of bringing life into this world, but I also firmly believe that with that miracle comes a huge responsibility that never goes away, should never go away. It blows my mind to think that a part of us lives on forever through those who come after us. If you are a parent, you will know what I am talking about; how there is so much of ourselves in our children that when we die, our soul truly goes on, our spirit lives on in the legacy we have left with every example, lesson, instruction, caution, warning, encouragement, wisdom, every single word we ever uttered to our children, but not just to them, to every other human being we ever came into contact with. Every single action we take or do not take, every word we say or don’t say, affects the outcome of a much bigger reality.

It does make me feel really down at times to think that I spent the first half of my life veering towards a goal, the exploration and perfecting of a passion, a gift, a calling, and the other half neglecting that innermost need and revelation of who I am supposed to be. And yet, a quote like this reminds me that we don’t live alone in this world. Life is not about me, myself and I as much as society, trends and culture today try to convince us that we are. We are inexplicably but undeniably connected to each other, generations past, present and yet to come. Humanity is a mind-boggling concept that can only be comprehended when we see it as an atomic force that only has meaning when seen as the sum of each and every single part, not when we consider each individual and their legacy in isolation. Each person’s legacy is achieved thanks to the example, knowledge and sacrifice of someone else. None of us act alone in this world, not really. We have a debt of gratitude to ‘what’ brought us into being, we have a duty I feel to honour that.

Perhaps my egotistic desire to realise my hopes and dreams was misplaced all along. Perhaps that constant feeling of frustration for hopes deferred is not due to my soul feeling incomplete because I have not reached my purpose, but rather friction in my life continues because I am not willing to accept that indeed the richest legacy I can leave behind is honesty: truly looking within and accepting that despite my dreams of a grandiose materialised potential, be it professionally, as a member of society, a lover, a friend, the simple but painful truth lies in accepting I am just another human being whose significance and value lies simply in passing on to my children the very heavy baton of understanding that we never travel alone, and we therefore, whether we like it or not, have a responsibility not just to ourselves but each other to fulfill our purpose, yes, but never forgetting that the choices we make exponentially condition the choices of others, and that we can afford such choices only because others before us were honest and humble enough to accept that a chain only has unbreakable, limitless power when every link remains deeply interlinked to another.

I can only make sense of humanity as a collective whose parts are of equal value, share equal dignity and potential. It is painful accepting that I am not the protagonist of my own story, but when were truth and honesty that palatable? People often talk about not wanting to have any regrets when they come to the end of their life. Well, I believe every single human being will have some regret at the end, because none of us have it all figured out when we start or even half way through this journey, so inevitably we will come to the end still doubting some of our choices, wishing we made others. Given that premise that we all die with some regrets, I don’t want to look back on my life and only see a Narcissus staring at its own reflection on the water, being so caught up in its own radiance that she misses out on the bigger picture, the bigger purpose and meaning of it all, whatever that is.

Comfortable being afraid

‘Comfortable being afraid’ is something I read this morning on https://after-the-rain.org/ and it truly struck a chord deep in my psyche. I can totally relate to that notion! Years ago, a bunch of women including myself who were members of the same church, went on a ‘Ladies Weekend Away’. It was ‘advertised’ as a team-building weekend full of physical and emotional challenges designed to push us beyond our own limitations; to overcome our deepest fears; to build courage and trust. Blinded by years of indoctrination, I swallowed the bait and marched on so proud of myself for putting myself in ‘the line of fire’. I have in my later years grown very afraid of heights, and one of the very first activities we were faced with that weekend was abseiling off a very high bridge above a river. This was it. This was the one: my demon. I let others go first in the hope of watching how they went about leaping over the side of the bridge and beginning their descend. My turn came and even before starting, I was already struggling to breathe; shaking beyond control. Everybody else who had completed the task cheered me on, as did those waiting to have a turn. I put one leg over the side of the bridge, then the other and held on for dear life not daring to look down. The instructor started giving me a pep talk to build me up so I would finally start my descend, but I already knew I was not going to do it.

With every second perched on that bridge ledge came a new wave of suffocating dread. I was utterly paralysed mentally and physically. Couldn’t bring myself to move either way, even though I was already trying to get back on the safe side of the bridge. I burst into tears. I guess it was the huge release I needed to bring me back to myself; I was totally inconsolable once I stepped back into safety. I don’t remember ever crying like that before. Afterwards, I felt dead inside, numb.

As I stood there beaten, ashamed, watching others march on without any fear towards what had been for me a horrific ordeal, I heard one of the ladies ask a question to the vicar’s wife, who happened to have organised this weekend away and had been to this same Activities Centre previously and was therefore well rehearsed in all the activities and confident in her ability to ‘conquer her fears ( didn’t have any)’. I heard this lady ask the vicar’s wife: What happened to Mercedes? Did she do it?, and the vicar’s wife replied with great pride and a shockingly disgusting lack of Christian spirit and empathy: ‘No she didn’t, she chickened out‘.

I don’t know what broke me more int that instant: the realisation that I was always going to have certain fears which I would never overcome, or knowing that so many in the ‘Evangelical Squad’ can be so profoundly clueless as to use an opportunity like this to exalt themselves (not the God they preach to others about), ridicule another person, and further beat them when they are already down.

It took me a while longer to abandon the church system for good, but I know it was in that very instant that I realised the God I believe in was not to be found around those who claim to have all the answers; those who claim to have been called to leadership of any kind; those who proclaim one thing but do quite another. I realised God’s Spirit (and I use that term loosely because I accept that it means very different things to different people) lives within me and it is that voice and that alone I need to heed to and trust.

I also learnt at that very moment a huge lesson about fear. I am not to be ashamed of being scared of doing the things that others can or want to do; ashamed of letting fear stop me from taking on certain new challenges. Who is to say the challenges that are right for you must also be right for me? I do hope, however, that I never lose the ability to be paralysed when tempted to trample down on another human being in their moment of greatest weakness in order to make myself look grandiose to everyone else; to validate my self-perceived greatness. I hope that for every person I encounter in my life who is struggling in any way, I don’t use their weakness as a chance for point-scoring, but rather as an opportunity to lift them up, offer them comfort and a shoulder to lean on; to cry on.

Our biggest fear shouldn’t be not being able to do certain things; to miss certain opportunities; to fail at certain things. Our biggest fear should be becoming so caught up in our own sense of advancement, righteousness and knowledge that we forget we are just human beings not Gods. Is it really courage that makes us overcome our greatest fears or is it pride that makes us think of ourselves higher than we ought to; pride that gives us the determination to beat our own limits, because we cannot bring ourselves to accept that we are after all limited beings?

There is a reason why we experience fear. We are imperfect beings without all the answers. We are lost creatures in the midst of a vast unknown. Being fearless means losing sight of that awareness and dangerously inflating, stroking our egos; it means we forget ourselves and set ourselves above others whom we no longer see as equals but as the rivals we need to beat in order to protect our own and others’ notion of our superiority.

I am very comfortable these days being afraid. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me humble. I take risks and chances like everybody else, and of course sometimes I make mistakes, but I remain rooted in the awareness of my many limitations, and when I do attempt new scary things, I always try not to trample on others in my pursuit for self development, self-fulfillment, self-discovery.

Fifty shades of me

There is always another bed to make, bathroom to clean, email to reply to, shopping to do. Daily life can be so oppressive. Writing the word oppressive just now makes me feel nauseous, embarrassed, ashamed to even own up to these feelings when I am so blessed. The truth is I don’t have a clue what to be oppressed, in the purest sense of the word, feels like. And yet, in my abundant, comfortable life, one can also feel caged and asphyxiated.

Life seems to be an endless thread of ‘must dos and don’ts’. From the moment I wake til the moment I go to bed, all I do is tick off things of my mental list in the hope of feeling purposeful. I guess I have always been an achiever or at least driven and productive. Five years giving my all to a degree, then a masters, then various jobs, a marriage, a home, and most of all my two kids and all the different mighty battles that come when you become a parent and you instinctively become the lioness that will go to lengths you didn’t know you could go to, to protect your cubs. Now they are adults, it’s tough figuring out where one fits in this vast universe, so inertia drives me to continue worrying about all the little petty things and not so petty that keep my world and the world of those who I love spinning. I can’t help but wonder though, is that it? Is that truly my purpose? Being alive today should be simply epic. Is it good enough to reduce a life to the ‘must dos’ and ‘dont’s’? Is it right to just settle for that? Or should I look beyond the here and the now, beyond meeting the needs of those closest to me so that I can get clarity and vision to fulfil my own hopes and needs?

Two weeks ago I was in Prague with my daughter. A very long-overdue mother and daughter trip. It was great fun just being, not thinking; just enjoying the moment, breathing, pondering on times past and dreams deferred; messing about with my first born, now 21 years old, and pretending I was 21 years old again myself; letting go of my alter controlling ego; making a total fool of myself but letting much needed laughter in in the process.

Fifty shades of me

It ain’t over til it’s over!

It’s been two weeks since I returned from Prague and those fleeting moments of sheer joy, freedom, contentment and inner peace have long disappeared in my memory. I have been ill with cold/flu/ Corona virus (goody!) symptoms for a week. I have now come through the worst of it, but pretty soon I find myself back on self-preservation mode, keeping my head down, doing the chores, working, cleaning, worrying…..surviving.

This world is so spectacular. Living is such a miracle and here I am, back on the saddle going nowhere. What a bloody waste!

I want my life to be full of colour, every colour, every shade, but I can’t do that if I revert to my cocoon every time the sun does not shine on the unique pigmentation that makes up my being.

Every line, whether edged on a page or on our face, tells a story, so don’t be hasty and sum another human being up by what you see but rather by what you cannot see.

Brexit day has come and gone but the betrayal for Europeans in UK will forever remain a ‘thorn in our flesh’

A thorn in our flesh

So the UK has finally left the European Union; Brexit day has come and gone and as my sister whatsapped me the other day: ‘The world has not come to an end, has it?’. Easy for her to say, though! She has not spent the last 28 years of her life giving her all to a country that’s not hers, a people with whom she does not share a culture, a history, a ‘DNA’. I am that person who has given the second half of her life to another nation. I don’t do things in halves, so when I say ‘given’ I mean that. I came over to the UK from Spain in the early 90s as an Erasmus student, married a Brit, had two children who now have double nationality; I have studied, served in the community, worked and paid taxes, and continue to do so after almost 30 years. Many don’t seem to get the outrage of so many Europeans like myself who have lived in the UK for more than half a life, and have suddenly become the family member who has overstayed their welcome at the party or rather, discovered they were never considered part of the family in the first place and must now be granted permission for such privilege.

So for those who still don’t get our shock and outrage, let me make it a bit more relatable for you. Just imagine being in a romantic relationship to which you have committed fully and sacrificed everything for, and after 30 years, finding out that in order to be allowed to remain in that relationship, you need to be granted a permit or else you are out, just like that! It is not what you have done. It is not the punishment to a crime you have committed or your partner seeking justice for an offence you’ve caused him/her. It is not because of what you have done, but rather because of who you are. A bit like someone saying to you after 30 years: ‘Thank you for all the years and everything you have given me, but I no longer love or want you, so if you want to remain in our relationship you need to beg me to let you stay. If you do, you can stay but only if you continue providing for me, sacrificing for me and always understanding that our relationship was never based on mutual love and appreciation, but self-gain on my part. It was your foolish mistake to believe otherwise!’.

All that love, all that sacrifice, the commitment, the loyalty, the investment, the faith, all thrown back at you as meaningless, worthless, non-existent. If you have ever been at the receiving end of betrayal or unfaithfulness, you will know the pain, gut-wrenching agony, anxiety and damage that being treated like that causes. It is a wound that never heals. Life as you have always known it, robbed from right under your feet. Your only mistake: to have put your unconditional love and trust, your whole being into a person/country that did not deserve it in the first place.

Let me tell you. I fully respect the reasons behind the majority of people who voted for Brexit. I truly do. I get it. What I don’t get is why all Europeans who have been living and working here for so many years have not been automatically granted settled status without having to go through the undignified process of being treated like an ‘alien’, a persona non grata, a leech; in essence, overnight we have been turned into targets of hate and abuse. Yes, Brexit day has come and gone, but the effects of what this process has done and will do to individuals like myself is only just beginning.

I am worried for the UK. I truly am! When I first came to this country, it was love at first sight. The openness, the cosmopolitan feel of the place, the tolerance, the freedom, the eagerness to learn and benefit from other cultures, the contagious positive forward-looking energy, the hunger for equality, progress, unity amongst akin nations to collaborate and face global problems as a unit rather than alone. In my eyes and in my heart, there was no other country on earth as beautiful inside and out and well put together as the UK. Despite the heartache of leaving all my family behind, my homeland, my culture, everything I knew to that point, I could fathom no other place I would rather live in than the UK.

That has all changed now! If you are a Brit and you are sitting there in judgement of my attitude, please put yourself in my shoes and imagine being at the receiving end of such betrayal. My love has turned sour. Unrequited love has never been an attractive prospect for anyone. I can understand that not everyone you love can or has to love you back, but what I will not put up with is the ‘we will love you and look after you so long as you continue to put money in the pot, to be profitable for us’. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to ‘love’ relationships, I like the ‘not having to pay for it’ kind of love. In essence, for me, being allowed to stay in the UK should have flown naturally and seamlessly after Brexit, after half a life of sacrifice and devotion. When mutual love has a price, it ceases to be love and becomes a business transaction. Thanks but no thanks!

Unity trumps love and selfishness and greed trump hate

A parallel reality

Sat in my office now for twenty minutes but struggling to get on with work. I guess I am facing the daily conundrum of which voice to adhere to: my rampaging thoughts that assail me like bullets or the quiet still small voice of my soul that beckons me to step out outside of myself into another dimension where neither time nor space are of any consequence. The former is comforting in as much as it is familiar, rehearsed but it is also frenetic, mechanic, lifeless, repetitive. The later is liberating, life-giving, tempting, dangerous, annoyingly quiet to the point where one has to go seeking, escaping the safe confines of routine.

Is it just me or it is becoming increasingly harder to find light and hope in this messed up old world? Desperately trying to keep seeing my glass half full which is ironic, because to many who know me, it will seem overflowing with abundance and contentment. Life is all a matter of perspective, though, isn’t it? As cliche as it sounds, most of us judge a book by its cover and none of us really have a clue of the demons, the agonies lurking in the depths of a human being; the battles raging in the innermost layers of their soul. Just as most of us fail to discern the true joys and epiphanies that fan another one’s flame to keep going. In the end, even those with great perceptive skills only see in us the layers which we allow them to see. Can anyone say that a person truly knows another? Very much doubt that. I am on the other side of the hill and am still peeling my own layers of character development, growth, morality and spirituality. No one can claim they truly know us until we know ourselves, and that is an on-going process, so by logic, each of us will remain an unlocked mystery even beyond death.

Spring is coming!