When we got married one of the gifts I was given was a beautiful pair of crystal candlesticks. They were quite obviously valuable, and they caught the light from every angle, to produce rainbows on the table. When I received them I even polished them up and held them admiringly, imagining what they would look like each with a burning candle atop. But I’ve never used them. I use my Grandma’s candle-holder. It’s a simple metal holder, dark grey in colour, with space for three candles, so that one is usually left empty. It doesn’t shine or glow. The wax collects and catches in various bits, mostly where it isn’t meant to. And every week when I light my candles, Grandma stands over my shoulder.
Yesterday, Grandma stood with me as I made my daughters breakfast. I was making semolina pudding, something I often stood by and watched her make as a child. As I pressed the hot pudding into the bowl with my flat oiled hand, as she used to do, for a moment I saw her old weathered hands instead of mine.
Granny puts in an appearance more often. In fact it’s usually her who arrives when I’m cooking. “Stir it or it will burn” she tells me. “Put a little water … put, put, don’t be a miser!” She’s always right of course. My mind turns to Granny when I hit one of life’s little snags/opportunities and I wish I could tell her. She has a way of approaching anything with calm, wisdom and a little mischievous humour. Once when she was staying over at our house, she slept in my room and on my table was a large jar of caterpillars that I had kept since their ailing mother moth laid their eggs in my shoe box. I must have left the lid partially open, because when my mother went upstairs to give my granny a cup of tea she quickly came back down with the message “Granny says to tell you your soldiers are marching!” I got up there to find that a good quarter of the 64 caterpillars had escaped and were heading for the hills … one had even made it half way up the bookcase, and was hanging off a large file! As I gathered them back into their jar Granny watched in amusement, sitting up in bed and drinking her tea. See what I mean? Cool, calm and collected … most other grannies would have screamed the house down.
Sadly neither of my grandmothers are still alive and every now and then I miss them terribly. I miss the story telling, the humour, the person who always made you feel like they had nothing else in the world to do than to spend their time with you. I learnt a lot from them, both about the serious things in life and the fun things too.
I like to talk about visualising what you want for your future and of course we all need to focus on mindfulness and being fully alive in the present … and doesn’t it make sense sometimes to also look back and acknowledge where we came from?
Of course everybody has had bumps and lumps in their past and some of our pasts are lumpier than others! Yet no matter what brought us to where we are now, we ARE here, and have our past to be thankful to for that. Sometimes it was loving, caring and enjoyable, and sometimes it was … well, at least you could say it was educational!
Did you get to spend time with your grandmothers? If you’re lucky enough to still have one or both, why not give them a call and let them know how much you love them. Or maybe you’re a grandmother (or even a grandfather) yourself … you know your memory lives on well after you’re gone, and your voice will be heard long after you’re there to project it. Each of us has multiple opportunities to leave our mark behind us as we progress through life, wherever we go and even when we go. Whether we touch the world community or even if our sphere of influence extends purely to our immediate family, we get to leave so many gems or grenades hidden in the sand ready to be discovered. What will you leave? The cool thing is, you get to choose!
Rest in Peace Steve Jobs. As you must know by now the co-founder of Apple died last Wednesday 5th October, age 56. I’ve just sat here and watched him delivering his commencement speech to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005 (you can find it on YouTube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA). The speech is very moving, simple and honest – if you haven’t seen it I’d say it’s worth 15 minutes of your time.
Don’t you ever find yourself wondering “What’s the difference that makes the difference with people like that?” There he is up on stage, just another human being talking frankly about his life, and sharing some things he’s learnt for the benefit of the graduating students present. Now he’s dead, the sentence already passed on every living being. Yet he was different, and in that he lives on. He was different enough to be instrumental in creating the Apple Mac computer, that has revolutionised computing and thereby the world. He mentions in his speech that he started Pixar (who pioneered feature length computer animated films). And most lately of course his company is responsible for the ipod/phone/mac. So a true innovator, and a sad loss for the world.
I think the thing that most struck me about the man, watching that speech, was that he spoke from the heart. It’s always refreshing to see someone who is in the public eye just be themselves with no airs and graces. And perhaps that is where the difference lies. I’m beginning to think that perhaps that’s what sets true geniuses, innovators and trendsetters apart. Perhaps it isn’t the brilliance of their ideas. After all we all have mind-blowing ideas from time to time – how often have you seen some new invention come up and said “Hey I thought of that last year!” Perhaps, just perhaps, it has more to do with the fact that they’re not afraid to be themselves, and to stand up for what they believe in. Everybody has ideas, THEY follow up on their ideas, and have the guts to offer them to the world. Look at the big people in our history – Einstein, Van Gogh, Picasso, Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte , Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi , Princess Diana, Thomas Edison, Mohamed Ali, the Dalai Lama, John Lennon even J.K. Rowling, to name but a disparate few. Every one of them a striking and unique individual. Every one of them bold enough to offer their personal gift to the world, without apology.
Steve Jobs himself touches on this idea during said speech:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
So if you truly want to make your mark on the world and share your gift with humanity, isn’t it time you started to live in accordance with your truest beliefs? Isn’t it time to really be yourself? I say this as much to myself as anyone. I think it’s something most of us really struggle with, because being authentic is a risky business. We risk being ostracised or ridiculed. We risk losing friends. We risk feeling stupid or the odd one out and we risk failure. Scary isn’t it? In times gone by if you were chucked out of your community that meant exposure to the elements and predators and almost certainly an early death, so it’s probably programmed into each and every human being to conform, purely for the sake of safety. It’s actually known that the best ideas usually get laughed out of town before they’re accepted as fact. I guess you have to weigh up the benefit of being safe and boring or living it large, and taking some risks.
Which leads me to one of my favourite quotes:
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, shouting GERONIMO!” Hunter S. Thompson from Hell’s Angels
Wanna be a trend setter? Wanna be the next Steve Jobs or J.K. Rowling? The truth is, you can never be them. You can only be the one and only authentic you. Starting TODAY.
My wish for you (and for myself!) this week is that we take some time out from the tumult around us, and tune in to the quiet yet persistent inner voice within each of us. That we listen well and act on those flashes of inspiration that come to us. The voice gets louder, and the ideas get better the more you listen. Your inspiration deepens, and the power of your creative though becomes more far reaching, the more you invite it into your life and the more you share it. Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. You’re just tapping in to your own truth, and the deepest wisdom sitting there in the Universe waiting for you, just you, to claim it and proclaim it aloud. Draw down that gift that’s yours to give, and share it with existence – that’s your birthright, and your obligation.
Wishing you a deeply inspired, authentic week –