A guiding light

Sambro Lighthouse (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

 

“Lighthouses are endlessly suggestive signifiers of both human isolation and our ultimate connectedness to each other. ”   

Virginia Woolf 

My grandfather was a lighthouse keeper… almost a century ago and on the other side of the ocean… far, far away. I wonder what he thought, all by himself – day after day –  in the middle of an endless sea.

Twelve years ago, my mother and her sister (my aunt) died within two months of each other. My mother was 79, my Aunt, 86. According to their express instructions, they wanted to be cremated and requested that I scatter their ashes in the open sea – so that they would go back home to Europe. It was an honour and a privilege to fulfill their wishes. One of the most peaceful and serene moments in my life was when I leaned across the fishing boat, said a prayer and – one-by-one – scattered each beloved woman’s ashes. I said my goodbyes and wished them a safe journey. Despite the moody sky and the very (very) rocky waves, time stood still.  I knew, in my heart, that the steady gaze of the lighthouse would guide them home.

“I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve.”    

George Bernard Shaw

—– Photo Cerdit: By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Advertisements

heatherfromthegrove’s Seven New Year’s Revelations Wrap-up… and the journey continues

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. 
They move on. They move away. 
The moments that used to define them are covered by 
moments of their own accomplishments. 

It is not until much later, that 
children understand; 
their stories and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories 
of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, 
beneath the water of their lives.” 
― 
Paulo Coelho

 

As I say each year, on this day, the 8th of January:

 “For those of you who have been following, reading and enjoying each of my seven New Year revelations …. Thank You.

I would like to point out that they are not New Year Resolutions. I don’t make New Year Resolutions anymore. They are my own personal revelations. Epiphanies. Discoveries. In the past decade, I’ve faced some daunting challenges and heart-wrenching events. I’d like to think that I’ve handled them with dignity, compassion, grace, and humor. Always humor. It helps take the edge off.

So, the lessons that these “life tests” have taught me are my “revelations.” As I move forward with my life, I will use them as my guide. Wisdom has to be earned. For me, it’s an ongoing journey, as I’m sure it is for all of you, as well.”

Here’s a synopsis (the numbers have a hyperlink back to each revelation post):

  • New Year’s Revelation No 1“Life’s too short”
  • New Year’s Revelation No 2“Learn about the world around you”
  • New Year’s Revelation No 3“Read a person’s eyes… “
  • New Year’s Revelation No 4“If you’re a man, be a gentleman… “
  • New Year’s Revelation No 5“I may be small, but I’m strong”
  • New Year’s Revelation No 6“Keep things neat, clean and tidy… “
  • New Year’s Revelation No 7“Why the hell should I care what anybody thinks of me?”

And on it goes.

I’m looking forward to whatever 2015 has in store for me.

I wish you all a blessed, healthy and happy  2015 and may your own personal journey bring you deep fulfillment and wisdom… and loads of wonderful opportunity and adventures!

Cheers,

heatherfromthegrove

(Photo credit: Heather Joan Marinos. © 2015. All Rights Reserved. Use of this photo in any form is strictly prohibited.)

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 7 of 7: “Why the hell should I care what anybody thinks of me?”

blueborder

This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

blueborder

My mother used to say:

“Why the hell should I care what anybody thinks of me?!”

My mother danced to the tune of a different drummer. Although a Roman Catholic, she did not appreciate having religious dogma “jammed down her throat” (her exact words).  She questioned. She rebelled. She made adjustments. To her, religion was deeply personal and spiritual. She did not join groups and attend Church gatherings, just to socialize and keep up appearances.

She prayed. Privately. She believed. Deeply.

She was a woman of Faith – but in her own, singular way.  She was actually more religious than some of the people I knew who went to Church daily.

Ever since I can remember, she would instruct me not to care about what people thought about me.  She spoke to me about the importance of embracing who I was, to try to change the things about myself that I needed to change – but not for anyone else. She taught me to accept what I cannot change – to embrace my flaws, as well as my virtues.  She taught me to be me.

She rarely wore make-up and, as for jewelry – just her wedding band.  On special occasions, she’d wear a strand of pearls. She didn’t have pierced ears, nor did she ever pluck her eyebrows (she didn’t have to, they were perfectly formed). She preferred the smell of Bromley’s English Fern soap to any kind of perfume.  My mother used to tell me a story about her mother (my grandmother, who died well before I was born) and how she didn’t need to wear jewelry in order to feel or be rich. Apparently, a woman once asked my grandmother why she never wore jewelry, implying (in a derogatory manner) that she must therefore be very poor.  My grandmother replied “My children are my jewels. They enrich my life.”  My mother was the youngest of six children and all six adored their mother (my grandmother).

My mother was not one to self-edit.  She spoke exactly what was on her mind, not mincing any words. This often made for some awkward moments and uncomfortable silences when in the company of friends and relatives. Whilst we (my siblings and I) would wince (like all young people, we were very easily embarrassed by things that our elders would say or do), my mother would shrug the moment off. She always, always stood by what she said and did.

It’s no wonder, then, that I – despite having to wear eyeglasses since the age of two, endure years of eye patches, endure school taunts about being “four-eyed”, or having skin as white as a ghost, and on and on – am a very, very confident woman.

I do not conduct myself or my life… for other people.

I do not seek approval, I need to approve of myself.

I dress the way I choose to.  I do not second-guess myself.

I do not care what others say or think about me.  Everyone is subjective and each person’s perspective is based on their own life experiences.  So, what is important to me is how I think about myself.  I always ask myself “Am I being the best I can be? Am I doing the best that I can do? Am I learning as much as I can? ”  The answer is not always a resounding “Yes!” but the journey is not over, yet.  Fingers crossed.

Most importantly, I stand by what I do and what I say.

My closest friends and family know that when they ask me for advice, I will not sugar coat it.  I tell it like it is (unfortunately, telling it “like it is” is not always what they want to hear).

I am my mother’s daughter.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 5 of 7: “I may be small, but I’m strong.”

blueborderThis year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

blueborder

My mother used to say:

“I may be small, but I’m strong.”

My mother was 4’11” tall.  She was “petite” but fierce.  Her hands, though small, were strong.  As wayward children, we knew her vice grip well.  She could beat a 6′ tall burly man in an arm wrestling match.  But her eyes, oh those eyes.  When she was angry, her eyes were like steel and ice.  And if that gaze was directed at one of us, we knew we were in deep trouble.  She didn’t have to utter a word. Just one look.

Throughout her life, she suffered a series of debilitating illnesses – from brain clots, osteoporosis, and heart problems to multiple cancers.  She was always in pain, but rarely showed it.  She whistled through it. She laughed at it. She refused to succumb to it. She despised weakness and was damned if she was going to let anyone see her vulnerable.

When she experienced a life challenge – physical, emotional, family related or economic – she bore it defiantly… almost like daring it to bring her down.  Except that it never did.

Even at the very end of her life, with cancer festering rapidly throughout her small body, she looked at me – smiling and loving eyes penetrating my soul – and she said “My darling girl, don’t cry for me. I’ll be fine.”  She was 79. I was 45. I was not fine.  I was losing the most precious person in my life.

In the years since, I’ve experienced some interesting life challenges. Friends and family have expressed their amazement at how stoically I’ve handled myself, how strong and resilient I am.

I’ve had a good teacher.

    “The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.”

― C. JoyBell C.

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 3 of 7: “Read a person’s eyes… “

blueborder

This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

blueborderMy mother used to say:

“Read a person’s eyes. Eyes don’t lie.”

You’ve heard the Shakespearean quote before. “The eyes are the window to your soul.”  Not only did my mother know this to be true, she made this her yardstick to determine who was honest and who was not, who was a true friend and who was not, and on and on.  She always told me that if a person won’t look you in the eyes, they were most likely dishonest or hiding something.

Additionally, if someone she knew was experiencing some sort of emotional crisis and masking it with smiles, she would look past the facial expression and note the pain or sorrow in his or her eyes.  She saw everything.  Sometimes we look, but we don’t really see.  My mother taught me how to see.  As a writer, this has become one of my most invaluable skills.

My mother’s grey-green eyes were beautiful, moody and expressive. She and I always spoke to each other with our eyes. We could have complete conversations, without ever uttering a word. I have learned that words are sometimes superfluous.

And, one more thing about eyes:  over the years, I’ve gained enough wisdom and experience to know that – at the end of the day (each day) –  it’s important that we (each of us) are able to look ourselves in the mirror, straight in the eye… and not look away.  What this means is that we have done nothing that we regret, nothing that we should be ashamed of.  What this means is that we have conducted ourselves in a manner that is in keeping with our own moral compass.

It is always a good day when we can look ourselves in the eye.

“Look into my eyes and hear what I’m not saying, for my eyes speak louder than my voice ever will.”

~ Author Unknown

 

Image via Sodahead.com.

 

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 1 of 7: “Life’s Too Short”

blueborder

Happy New Year everyone!

This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

blueborder

My mother used to say:

“Life’s too damn short, so make the best of it. We only have one life.”

This, from a Roman Catholic.  So I would earnestly ask her the obvious question: “But, what about the Afterlife?”  – to which she would immediately quip “When I get there, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, focus on this life.”

And indeed, when I was a child, it was my mother who would occasionally decree her own “snow day.” Rather than going in to school, I would get to stay home and we would spend the day weaving stories, acting out scenes and letting our imaginations soar.  My storytelling gene… I get from her.

My mother, who was born in the mid-1920s on the Mediterranean island of Malta, was a bon vivant (loosely translated, this means someone who likes to live well). She enjoyed people, loved to laugh and dance, savored both wine and whisky (not at the same time, mind you), and always had a mischievous twinkle in her eye.  When she twitched her lips, you knew she was just about to say something exceedingly irreverent.

She practiced what she preached. She taught me how to celebrate life –  in good times, and in bad.

As she said: “We only have one life.”   Her theory was that if we live with the promise of tomorrow, then we may neglect to live fully today.

I embrace her philosophy wholeheartedly, as those who know me well will certainly attest.

Several years back, I gave a eulogy for my mother.  My last words were: “When my mother entered the gates of heaven, God gave the harpists the day off because he knew that the jazz band had just arrived.”

So, on this first day of what promises to be a glorious new year, let’s plan to make the most of today and every blessed day that follows.  Life is a celebration.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”

~ Denis Waitley

Image via Cyladies.com.

Keep That Lens Focused

Following from my May 16th blog, Maximize Your Five Senses, I will be writing (all week) about each of the five senses (and the sixth sense) and sharing with you some of the wisdom that my mother imparted to me.

This series of blogs is dedicated to her.

Hlens (3)

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way.  Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.  To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion – all in one.”
―  John Ruskin,  Modern Painters

My mother always spoke to me with her eyes.  She was most definitely not mute, but she nevertheless  preferred to communicate via her eyes.  Oh, the conversations we used to have!  Just a glance ― grey-green eyes meeting grey-green eyes ― message sent and received.  I knew exactly what she was thinking.

She taught me how to be quiet, stay still and watch.  Observe.  Focus. Notice every detail.  See beyond the obvious. 

She taught me that a person’s eyes tell a story.  In a flash, she could tell when someone was lying or when someone was trying to hide some emotional scar.  She was able to see beneath the surface. Her eyes missed nothing. 

She taught me well.

What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that my mother was training me to be a writer. 

With this heightened sense of sight  (a great feat for me, since I’ve been wearing  very thick eyeglasses,  since the age of two!), I observe everything keenly and then, I write.

Our sense of sight is one of the most  – if not the most – precious of the five senses.  It is so important to take care of it.  I nearly caused some serious damage to my eyes when I went through a phase where I would sleep with my contact lenses in, for days on end.   Foolish vanity.  I now wear  my eyeglasses 99% of the time.  And my lenses are perfectly focused.

When my mother was in hospice care, she – along with many of the other patients – would be wheeled into  a lounging area.  She was often confused as to where she was (and why).  Her confusion, however, did not extend to me.  She knew exactly who I was. One of my last memories of her was when I was walking down the corridor towards the lounge and, from about a hundred feet away, she spotted me instantly. Her eyes danced, as she clapped her hands with joy.  Her eyes followed me as I came closer – grey-green eyes locked onto  grey-green eyes.   We embraced and I held her small, frail body as tightly as I could, without hurting her.

That was eight years ago this week.  Not a day goes by without me remembering her expressive, mischievous eyes.  And when I look into the mirror, there they are.

Her Eyes

by VALARIE M. SHEA

Gone are the eyes that watched me grow
The eyes that were able to see into my soul
Together we climbed mountains and made it through the pain
Only to find out that someday it would be forever changed

As you’ve gotten weaker, I’ve gotten stronger
Able to take care of myself even though I didn’t want to

You’d be proud of my wit, my confidence and my charm
People say I’m just like you and I know all about your charms
The eyes are in my heart, the eyes that saw my soul
But gone are the beautiful eyes, the eyes that watched me grow