Life Lesson 1# ‘Warts and all’

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelo 

Recently a person within my extended family showed their ‘true colours’ to me, after they had had a bit too much to drink. The statement about an ethnic group was so despicable, I don’t want to write it here. After the statement was made I defended my views with a controlled passion, the subject was changed by someone else and topic was never discussed again, perhaps in an attempt to forget it ever happened.

Over the weeks following this event I started to ask myself questions such as: How can you deal with hearing something that is so despicable to you? And how can you act the same way around that person knowing that they feel that way? I could come up with no sensible answer, but what came to mind was the words from the wise  Maya Angelo  She taught us “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

I had known this person for over a decade and generally respected them, as an elder, with life experience. After this incident my feelings drastically changed. I started to think back on the times we had other heated dinnertime debates, and I realised that I had always felt a bit uncomfortable with discussing certain topics with them; perhaps half of me feeling that they might be hiding from their true beliefs, prejudices and intolerance for other races and ethnicities, by modifying what they said around me. So, warning signs had been there for a while, niggling away in the background – however there were reasons I chose or needed to disregard my instincts and put them to the back of my mind.

Most of my life I’ve managed to keep my distance from people with strong prejudices, but there are just times in our life where there will be people who are inherently linked to us and there are circumstances where we cannot escape from being near them.

My life lesson is derived from the quote:

“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” Maya Angelo

  1. Allow the person to demonstrate who they are as they do not necessarily show themselves through that they say, but also through what they don’t say and their actions.
  2. When we are true to ourselves and we don’t ignore our instincts, we don’t push down our feelings and we accept that the person is inauthentic. We will not be so shocked, hurt, or disgusted when they truly reveal themselves ‘warts and all’ with no self regulation.

School morning marathon

IMG_3963I’ve just got home from the school/nursery run. I never questioned prior to now why it was called the ‘school run’ but today as I flopped on the sofa, with my boots still on I feel that I’ve literally run a marathon.

After Izzy’s first exhausting and stressful year at school; my vision during the summer holidays had been to do a bedside yoga session in the morning. I also thought, like my Mum used to do I could start to get everything ready, arranged, and in place the night before … including breakfast. I imagined it would be possible for us to have a calm and enjoyable morning routine this term. These intentions are great, but in reality I just need those extra few minutes to sleep! When will I be able to live this mindful / zen life that I imagined could be possible?  All I really want to do after the school run is switch off and de-stress from this intense workout by switching on the TV to some mind numbing reality show, or girly drama.

I have to change this way of being – this is only the beginning of the second school year! I still have many, many more years of this. I can’t believe am so exhausted by 9am. The rush of adrenaline starts to stream through my body from the moment my alarm wakes me at 6.45. I hear myself shouting instructions, nagging, coaxing them as I try and get my five year old Izzy and three year old Jake up, ready, fed and out of the door. I pile them both into the car, feeling guilty as we could be, should be, walking.

At nursery today Jake runs off, I catch him, take him into his class, where his teachers and I encourage him to let go of my leg. I am impatient, watching the clock, but also not wanting to leave him; he usually bounces in happily. The Nursery teacher reassures me he will be fine once I leave, so with a quick kiss I grab Izzy’s hand, head for the exit, bumping into other stressed mums on their way to work. I’m now thinking; ‘How easy I have it’, and there goes that guilt feeling again. Now Izzy and I need to make it to school before the bell. We speed walk round the corner where we battle the opposite flow of mum’s, buggies, and toddlers leaving the school from their earlier drop off.  I arrive outside Izzy’s classroom handing over her backpack and with a peck on the cheek I watch proudly as she walks in calmly with confidence to her class. Standing there sweating and out of breath, I let out a big sigh, my body relaxes with ‘job done’ as Izzy’s teacher looks at me with compassion. Yes she has seen this all before, and she will again.

I started with such good intentions this morning. I woke up feeling positive and listened to my mindfulness app Stop, Breathe & Think. The three words, resonate as a mantra to life. I’m not sure why, but my life as it is now seems to be running full steam ahead and leaving me behind exhausted.

How can it be this hard to incorporate the mindful practices that I truly need and believe in? Today, the last day of term, I vow that this has to change. There has to be a better way.

A spider-like resilience

Spider

My fascination with spiders came a few years ago when each morning I would get up and see a spider had built an amazing web that sparked in the hallway window. When it rained it sheltered by the side and we could see it so close up we felt as if it were our own pet. We watched as it caught flies and bees and resisted all weathers. It seemed it would be there forever; I never really thought about how long it would live, it just became part of the family. But, one week I realised it was gone. I wasn’t sure how long it had been missing but the delicate bits of broken and fuzzy web looked like it had been unused for a long time. It was that day I felt saddened by this significant, but tiny loss.

This time of year is spider season, every morning the garden is lit up by the beauty of sparkly spiderwebs covered in dew. As soon as they dry out the webs become invisible and the whole family have experienced being tangled up in the midst the sticky and tickly web strands. A few years ago I would have been irritated by the amount of spider webs I had to battle through to get into my garden, but since I have had children my attitude to spiders and creepy crawlies have completely changed. I am more tolerant of these creatures as I try to instil a level of compassion as a value to my children.

My neighbour mentioned she hadn’t gone out in her garden much as she was petrified of spiders.
“Ooh no, I can’t bear them!” she said, “… awful things.” It turns out that both her husband and herself are scared of spiders, so it meant her two year old was unable to go outside to play on her trampoline. I told her that I got my two children to go out with a duster and taught them to be kind and brave when it came to walking through a spider web or getting tangled up in one. I wondered then what we can learn about resilience from spiders for ourselves and for our children.

Being curious I Googled spiders and resilience and I found one school, Cottingley Village Primary school in West Yorkshire had used the song Incy Wincy spider to represent resilience for their Early Years nursery and reception children. Through the song they focus on c as their Learning Power Capacity. They said, “The children know that:- We can learn by not giving up even when we find things hard. We should keep trying!”

Every day spiders get up and even when someone destroys their home they jump down and within an hour have rebuilt their home, with no fuss, just pure resilience. I have come to truly admire them, firstly for their creativity, the architecture of the webs are so complex. I wonder how they begin and where they end. But the thing I admire most is how they deal with their daily setbacks, their stamina and perseverance. They are just so resilient.

Inner Peace

I seek inner peace,
the kind you find at night,
the hustle of the day gone,
no one in sight.
Silence hits the streets,
only the noise of your breath is heard.
It’s a time I feel most alone,
my body aches to the very bone.
I think of the future
what it holds for me
what is my destiny?

I’ve lived life by the book,
always tried hard,
doing my best to be good.
Where is my inner peace?
The calm satisfying feeling
from my head to my feet.
I seek, will I find
the peace within my mind?

Am I looking too hard
to find the key
that will open the door
of happiness,
the one true meaning of love,
I have a husband and two kids
so could the answer be in God?

Dawn Yvette 2015

This is a poem I wrote originally when I was at University in 1997. I edited it slightly to make it current, as it still resonates with me now. 

dawned upon

dawn on or dawn upon. = To become evident or understood. Dawn (up) on someone. (Upon is formal) Past tense: dawned; past participle: dawned Flash across your mind. Come to mind. Occur to me. Become apparent to someone; [for something] to be suddenly realised by someone. Come into your head. To begin to be perceived, or understood by someone. dawned upon. Become evident. Strike. I get it. Register. To finally understand. See the light.

I am not my hair

The power of a song has to tell your story to others:

The first time I heard this song I thought, ‘Finally! Someone out there understands me!’. Someone’s been through this: I am not alone. I went and bought the album that I would play week after week on repeat, singing the lyrics “I am not my skin!’, out loud and proud, driving in my car, my heart open and free.

I lived in the Essex countryside until I was ten. The rest of my life I’ve mainly resided in London suburbia. My parents originally immigrated from the West Indies in the 60’s. After I was born they wanted me to have a ‘better life’ and good education, so we moved out of London. We moved to a place where we were the only black family in the community.

Growing up as an only child I had limited access to my parents’ Caribbean roots. Both of them immigrated in their late teens, adopting with vigour the English culture, and they immersed themselves fully into the British way of life. This meant the only exposure I got to black people was on visits to family members, trips to visit my Grandparents in the West Indies (where I never felt I belonged), and the few television programs with black people where no-one represented me.

I have to say that living in suburbia most my life I have hardly ever experienced blatant racism. The prejudice I have felt has been more subtle, perhaps you could say ingrained in ignorance, society’s stereotyping, negative assumptions and perceptions. I learned to embrace my difference and see it as unique, and I coped by shutting myself off from acknowledging negativity.

My friends and people I associated with never really  mentioned my colour, but my hair was forever a topic of fascination and conversation — the good, the bad and the ugly.

I remember being eleven: fringes were in fashion and because I had thick afro hair I couldn’t get a real fringe so I had a puff ball of hair sticking out. This got much attention and my friends repeatedly touched it as if I was an exotic animal. It was these comments that made me feel I would never be ‘normal’ and whatever I did I couldn’t be one of them.

The story of my hair explains my search for identity: I wanted to be accepted and to belong. I hope that, for my readers, by listening to the words of the song it will help to tell my journey of finding and embracing ‘the soul that lives within’.