Tag Archives: #1000Speak

Be a Rainbow In Somebody Else’s Cloud.

“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”

Maya Angelou

I stumbled across this quote tonight and it really reflects the desires of my heart. Must admit, I’ve also had those moments where I’ve appreciated those rainbows in someone else’s eyes…family, friends…even the eyes of a compassionate stranger.

xx Rowena

M- Dr Maya Angelou Replies.

Heart Hands red heart

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Maya Angelou.

Dear Rowena,

It’s been such a pleasure to meet you and thanks for the stopover, albeit brief.

I really enjoyed chatting with you over a glass of Iced Tea. Although I can’t say I enjoyed your Vegemite, those Tim Tams were divine! Indeed, I’d be truly grateful if you could please send me some more. Meanwhile, I’ve enclosed a signed copy of: Letters For My Daughter. I hope it’s what you’re looking for.

“Occasionally, all too, we meet people briefly yet the immediate trust we feel, informs us that bonds have been forged, forged forever on the pulse of a day or a week’s closeness.1.”

By the way, I like what you are doing with this series of Letters to Dead Poets who have inspired you over the years and retracing your steps as you go.

“We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name.”

“I find in my poetry and prose the rhythms and imagery of the best – I mean, when I’m at my best – of the good Southern black preachers. The lyricism of the spirituals and the directness of gospel songs and the mystery of blues are in my music or in my poetry and prose, or I missed everything.”

You have such an adventurous, inquiring mind. Keep those questions coming. I can’t promise that you’ll always find the answers but never give up trying.You never know what you’re going to learn along the way and even if you do end up somewhere off the beaten track, perhaps that where you were meant to be all along.

 

Rather than writing anything too structured, I thought I’d simply share a few thoughts:

“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” However, this letter will have to do.”

“I’m working at trying to be a Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy – it’s serious business.”

“Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory. We come from the Creator with creativity. I think that each one of us is born with creativity.”

“Of course, there are those critics – New York critics as a rule – who say, ‘Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.”

amelia heart painting

My daughter’s painting

“All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”

“When the human race neglects its weaker members, when the family neglects its weakest one – it’s the first blow in a suicidal movement. I see the neglect in cities around the country, in poor white children in West Virginia and Virginia and Kentucky – in the big cities, too, for that matter.”

Kids Angels Uniting Church 2008

“You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.'”

“Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.”

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

“Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.”

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

Keeping writing! “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Joy!

Maya.
Please note that words in quotation marks are direct quotes from Dr Maya Angelou and the rest of this letter is fictional but written, I hope, is keeping with her outlook xx Rowena

L-A Letter from Lao Tzu

Dear Rowena,

I heard you have been writing Letters to Dead Poets and Robert Frost mentioned that you had a few questions about the journey after reading his poem: The Road Not Taken. This might help:

“A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

You are undertaking an incredible journey into the human psyche and it has been such a pleasure to walk down but a short part of the road with you!

Blessings always!

Lao Tzu

PS By the way John Lennon says he forgot to mention this:

“Life is what happens to you while you‘re busy making other plans.”

-John Lennon

L: John Lennon: A Reply.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you!

I was rather stuck for words myself but I understand that you haven’t been well and this hasn’t been easy for your kids.

You probably weren’t aware that  Hey Jude was actually written for my son as: “Hey Jules”. I wrote it to comfort him after his Mum and I split up. Finding out how to walk through sadness is something everybody needs to learn. After all, we can’t always stay in the sun. We need the seasons just as much as the Earth. They make our experiences so much richer, more complex and diverse. As much as we complain, life would be so boring, if we didn’t have the rain. However, that doesn’t mean you keep standing out there getting wet. Only a fool wouldn’t find an umbrella.

Beatles Red Album

This is what I knew as The Beatles as a kid- Dad’s “Red Album”.

Moreover, as much as your kids might ask for loads of stuff and it’s hard to provide it all, when it really boils down to it, love is all they need. Anything else is a bonus and possible even a distraction.

That applies to you to my friend. I’m not suggesting that you stop writing to dead poets altogether but we have such a brief time in the land of the living. Don’t waste it.

Indeed, get off your laptop, out of that chair and off to the beach. It’s only metres away, and yet time and tide are passing you by. Let your dogs take you by the leash, pulling you along those golden sands. You could even get your feet wet. Frollick in the surf. You know the dogs are always ready, simply waiting by the door.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to keep writing and writing until you’re typing in your sleep. The muse will not desert. Indeed, the muse is part of you. It’s just that you don’t know it yet.

Farewell my friend until we meet again!

Best wishes,

John Lennon.

John Lennon autograph book

John Lennon wrote this in his cousin Stanley’s autograph book.

 

L-John Lennon: Letters to Dead Poets.

Dear John,

How are you?

You are at peace and perhaps I should apologise for so rudely interrupting your thoughts, your dreams and even mentioning the past. Yet, how could I not say something? Say what I want to say, without acknowledging what happened. How your life came to such an abrupt and violent end, when you were peace. I have been reminded of your quest so many, many times as more and more lives are swallowed up by war and hate and wish you were here. That you could’ve spoken out about what’s been happening in Paris and throughout our world.

Still, not knowing what to say, I’ll keep my words uncharacteristically simple:

Sorry!

………

After a pause and a few deep breaths, I apologise if I am moving forward too quick but I am writing to you as part of a series of Letters to Dead Poets. Each of these poets has touched my being in some way and I’m extending these moments into something of a journey, a conversation and even a difference of opinion. It turns out, that in so many instances, we don’t see quite eye-to-eye after all and I’ve been seriously challenged by what I am finding out along the way.

Anyway, although there are so many, many questions I could ask, I have a relatively simple request.

Could I please borrow your glasses?

I’d like to see the world through your eyes. See your vision. I know it wouldn’t be the same but I wish I could see better. Have your x-ray vision straight through the surface and into the soul.

Indeed, isn’t it ironic that someone short-sighted had such remarkable insight? Could view things unseen, hidden deep inside the soul and somehow unravel them. Explain those intangible inner mysteries the rest of us can’t even begin to perceive.

How did you do it? What made you who you are? Why weren’t you just like any other John?

Do I really want to know?

Or, would seeing through your eyes ultimately have me walking in your shoes and indeed paying the ultimate price?

Can I really afford to take that chance?

Or, would I be better off simply driving Mum’s taxi and sticking to the local roads and not venturing beyond the comfort zone?

These are not simple choices for me, especially as something tells me that I already left the main road a long, long time ago. That once you have know the road less travelled, there is no turning back.

Beatles Ticket

Thank you so much for being there. Not only now, but throughout my life. I still remember my Dad playing The Beatles on our recorder player as a child. Both of my parents were among the screaming crowds at Sydney Stadium when The Beatles famously toured Sydney back in 1964. They didn’t know each other then but they were there.

Beatles Aust tour

There are so many, many memories shared along the long and winding road cut painfully short.

I know it is no exaggeration to say, that all the world also wishes you were here, especially your beloved.

 

213573-yoko-ono-john-lennon-glasses

John Lennon’s bloodstained glasses, tweeted by Yoko Ono on what would have been their 44th anniversary. (Pic: Twitter @yokoono)

Indeed, Yoko Ono tweeted a photo of your blood-splattered glasses on what would have been your 44th Wedding Anniversary along with these very grim statistics about gun deaths in USA:

Over 1,057,000 people have been killed by guns in the USA since John Lennon was shot and killed on 8 Dec 1980. twitter.com/yokoono/status…

31,537 people are killed by guns in the USA every year. We are turning this beautiful country into war zone. twitter.com/yokoono/status…

— Yoko Ono (@yokoono) March 20, 2013

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that your glasses bore the scars of your death, although I didn’t know. Perhaps, I should retract my request and yet your glasses were but a symbol. A way of my expressing my desire to be a better person and a more compassionate and empathetic human being.

That’s all.

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

PS:  I apologise for viewing you through my own rather rosy-coloured glasses and perhaps forgetting your humanity, your faults and mistakes along the road. It’s just that you could express things so succinctly, that it’s easy to forget the realities of living and how difficult it truly is to for anyone to truly walk the talk.

Indeed, my kids are currently on school holidays and I’m busy talking to you when i should be entertaining them. Yet, I’ve fallen into the reflections of my reflections and am struggling to connect with the world I’m in. I’ve somehow wondered into Wonderland but am wanting to explore as much as I can and write it all down before I return to the real world. Before the door is locked and there is no return. You can not ignore the muse.

Happiness Through the Wars.

For the last 12 months, I have been in the compassion business and yet, so often I feel like slapping people straight in the face because they refuse to be happy. Instead, they’ve buried themselves in a deep hole and I’m starting to wonder whether they actually prefer it there. You see, all the means of escape are within easy reach, but they completely ignore them.

There are many reasons for this. Perhaps, they don’t feel they can change their circumstances. They have been given a diagnosis, or label, that supposedly renders them helpless. Or, they are just a bit overwhelmed, shocked and befuddled and might need a bit of assistance. After all, when you are going through a hard time, it’s easy to forget that you might only be passing through and this isn’t actually your destination.

If you are currently submerged in a crisis, you probably think it’s easy for me to say and that I just don’t get your situation. That I don’t know how bad it is. However, can you be so sure? What do you know about me? What’s my story?

red shoes

Me in my fancy red dream shoes. I’m usually barefoot, especially in Summer.

I’m not in your shoes. That’s a good thing, too. There are times when we need  that external tough nut who doesn’t give us what we want but what we need. That tough cop you don’t want to meet when you’ve decided everything’s hopeless and you’ve settled for a living death.

You see, as much as you might think you want someone to come along with a blanket, tucking you in and bringing you meals for however long it takes for you to die in a physical sense, that’s not what you need. Instead, you need that really annoying, irrepressible coach who tells you to: “Move it! Move it! Move it!”

You need action and probably even the proverbial boot up the you know where!

So, my question for you is this: “Do you want to stay where you are or do you want things to change…even if it is only those little annoyances you haven’t followed up?”

What we sometimes forget when we’re intensely focused on what’s gone wrong, is that it can always get worse.Somehow, we manage to shoot ourselves in both feet in addition to whatever adversity has come our way. Sadly, this happens way too often and while it’s tempting to play the blame game, we also have to look to ourselves.

What are we doing to actually improve our lot? To give ourselves the best chance?

You see, we are actually so much stronger than we think and have the means within ourselves to improve our lot. Moreover, as we feel more and more empowered, we in effect shrink whatever beast is bringing us down. Through these victories, however small, we also find a sense of happiness which can help us overcome further setbacks. This is what’s called resilience.

Of course, if you’d told me all of this when I was having a “dooner day”, I would’ve promptly slapped you in the face and retreated even further into my bed. I have to admit my Mum was pretty keen to get me moving again after those many colossal teenage break ups and I really thought she didn’t get it. Didn’t understand me. However, at the same time, when you’re older and you see the long-range, bigger picture, how can you let your beautiful daughter go up in smoke over a stupid boy? How could I do it to myself? That old phrase: “there are always plenty more fish in the sea” might seem heartless but it’s true. You just don’t appreciate that when you’re in it.

“When we are helping someone, it is so important to enable them, NOT render them disabled.”

Rowena

When we are helping someone, it is so important that we enable them, and do not disable them. While we can gallop in on our white horse and save the day on their behalf and be the hero, wouldn’t it be better to teach them how to ride so they can experience the thrill of not only overcoming their particular adversity, but also gain the strength and pride of learning a new skill? Having a new experience which gives them a sense of victory and achievement rather than reinforcing: “You can’t do this. Let me do it for you.”

Well, this is all very well unless you’ve taken a direct hit. Sometimes you need intensive, ongoing assistance or you might know that someone who does. No amount of wishful thinking, prayer, medical intervention is going to change what’s happened.

Or, is it?

Rowena Quad bike

Here I am riding the quad bike. Of all the activities, this one took me most out of my comfort zone.

What I would like to suggest is that you try to find a way around the hurdles and see what is possible. A few years ago, I went away on an Adventure Camp with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Beforehand, I wasn’t very confident about my physical capabilities and was very wary of trying new things. Of course, given my diagnosis, I had every reason to pull back. However, I knew that the staff knew and understood my limitations. This provided a sort of safety net, which allowed me to take on all sorts of unexpected challenges which took me way beyond my comfort zone. Ironically, probably the most challenging activity was going down a waterslide on the boat without my glasses on. I am so short-sighted that I’m literally blind without them and yet I went flying into the water and pulled myself back onboard. Did I feel weak, powerless and useless after that? NO! Of course, not! Rather, I felt triumphant…even after smacking the water nose first and getting water up my nose. That success propelled me onto further physical successes including riding quad bikes and ultimately skiing down a mountain (an Australian mountain so it wasn’t Everest but it was Everest to me).

These were huge monumental changes for me as I’d never been a physical person and was much more comfortable living inside my head and being the writer.

So, being in the compassion business but also being a survivor, the most compassionate thing I can say to you is… NEVER GIVE UP! I’m not talking about reaching dreams like becoming a millionaire or even one that’s very important to me…getting a book published. What I am talking about is never giving up on YOUR SELF and your ability to pull yourself out of the rabbit hole. This is not to deny the power of prayer and God’s strength but God didn’t make us powerless. He didn’t want us to be victims. He said pick up your mat. NOT… I’ll carry it for you and keep carrying it for you. We are so much stronger than we ever thought possible but we need to use and exercise that strength. Not let it go to waste.

While tough love might seemingly fly in the face of compassion, building strength instead of weakness is an incredible gift of love and what ultimate leads to a more enduring form of happiness.

P.S. The Back Story.

Sometimes I wish I had badges or scars which acknowledge the challenges I have overcome and survived. They would give me the credibility to share my story without people thinking: “What would you know? She’s happily married with two kids. She even has two dogs for heavens sake…and a roof over her head.” You probably wouldn’t even notice any physical proof of my struggles at all.

Yet, if you touched the side of my head, well camouflaged underneath my hair of course, you’d find a bump. That’s the shunt which manages a neurological condition, hydrocephalus. When I was around 25, I had brain surgery and it took a good 12 months just to get back to square one again…let alone fly. The doctor had marked my file with “full recovery” at the time and after six months, those words almost seemed cruel. What was he talking about? I still wasn’t back at work and that’s what a full recovery meant to me at the time. AND…it meant now!! This instant. I was stuck in a dreadful state of suspended animation, which is hard enough for anyone to deal with let alone when you’re young. I picked up photography in a very serious way during this time and looking through the lens, you see what you see and somehow become absorbed into it and out of yourself and your problems. I have no doubt that it helped my recovery. It also bridged that gap with the rest of the world who was working. It turned out that when I went to parties, people were much more interested in hearing about photography than work! I was interesting. Moreover, my stories about the flip-top head were also fairly entertaining.

Throwing humour at your bad luck, also turns things around. Prior to my surgery, I was living in a veritable twilight zone straight out of Oliver Sacks: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat. Even the horizon moved up and down when I walked, so it’s no surprised that I walked like John Wayne with a broad gait just to keep my balance! This wasn’t the kind of poise you wanted as a young woman or teenager! However, once I was on the mend, these stories were quite funny.

However, as much as we like to believe lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice, it can and it does. Just because it only got your head last time, doesn’t mean that it can’t try and claim the rest of you as well.

Following the birth of my daughter, my immune system went haywire, as it usually does. However, instead of returning to normal, my body started attacking itself when I developed an exceptionally rare auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis. It took 18 months to finally diagnose this beast. By then, most of my muscles had wasted away and I couldn’t dress myself, roll over in bed or put my daughter back in her cot. Ironically, she was still being breastfed and due to the nature of the muscle breakdown, I was still able to look after the kids and get them dressed. Because this thing had snuck up on me and we had no idea what it was, I had no appreciation of just how incredibly hard every single move had become. My feet felt like concrete trying to lift them upstairs and my body felt like a bag of rocks trying to lift myself out of the car yet I just kept going. That’s what you do. It wasn’t like I had a choice. I had two kids to look after so I was also fighting with all that I had, to keep them As soon as I was diagnosed, I was put in a wheelchair. Full stop.

Actually, it could well have been a full stop but it wasn’t. I had treatment and while there is no cure, I am better.

chemo sonata bw

This disease has been a determined blighter and I’ve had several close calls. I live with about 60% lung capacity and had chemo two years ago. I am still here. Not just the shell of who I was, but ME. I am very much alive. Life isn’t perfect. I am content but I am also reflective. I am conscious of my journey and how different things would have been but I’m equally conscious of the depth and wisdom I have gained, which I believe can only be gained through adversity. I also know that I am not the only one. That pretty much everyone has their lot, their burden to carry. So, now the question for me is less about the nature of the load and much more about how I’m going to get to the other side.

Rowena skiing downhill Fri

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

How about you? Can you be happy in the midst of adversity?

xx Rowena

This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on Compassion and Happiness. And, our monthly link-up date aligns perfectly with International Day of Happiness. How perfect!

Write your relevant post and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.

 

 

Here’s how to get involved:

Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook

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Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.

 

Hopscotched.

Your smile turned upside down.

Beaten, you hid yourself away

deep inside an inner labyrinth.

A maze of twisting, turning tunnels

where light goes in

but only darkness comes out.

Your eyes switched off.

Their animated sparkle gone,

I can’t find you anymore.

 

Beaten black & blue,

whipped by their brutal words,

your anguish took root,

spreading its tentacles across a blue sky,

turning it black,

as their poison coursed

through your veins,

straight to your heart.

 

Frantic, I’m running.

My heart’s beating

right out of my chest.

I’m gasping for breath so much

my lungs ache.

Where are you?

How will reach you in time?

I don’t know but please just hold on.

Hold on!

I’m going to take you home.

 

“Forgive them.

They know not

what they do.”

Rubbish! They know!

They have always known.

Twisting their vicious knives

deep inside their hapless prey,

the sacrificial lamb,

they leave no scars.

Not even a scratch.

Oh to be popular!

They can do what they like…

A pretty face but an ugly heart.

Is it worth it?

Selling your soul to buy friends?

I’d rather be alone.

 

Sweetie, I don’t know

why they hurt you

but I won’t let them win.

Oh no!

I’m holding on,

gripping you tight.

As tight as I can,

even by the barest tip

of my fingernails.

I’ll never let you go.

My love is too strong.

 

Indeed,

they’d better run!

 

Rowena Newton

 

This is a fictional poem and yet we all know it’s not but it’s not one particular person’s story. Unfortunately, it is rare to find a child who hasn’t experienced being bullied at some point in their lives. However, just because it is common, that doesn’t minimise what bullying does to people. The incredible pain and humiliation it brings.

On eof the things that has spoken to me in recent years, is the importace o speaking out. Not being a bystander. Here’s a great clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruBqetaMd5g

Bullying is like with so many other issues. You can’t just sit on the fence. You’re either in or you’re out. If you stand by and allow someone to be bullied without intervening in some way directly or indirectly, you are part of the problem as well. Guilty! You’re a bully!

Bullying has both directly and indirectly caused people to take their own lives not just as teens but also later in life as those ghastly ripples keep flowing.

At home, we try and talk about the importance of the Golden Rule in our family. I find that’s a good starting point for teaching children how to have better relationships. Treat others as you would like to be treated. You might not get it exactly right but at least your intentions were good.

I think it is also good to have that conversation about what it means to be popular and whether it is worth selling out on your personal values and ethics just to be one of the cool kids? Is it worth it? I’m not saying that all popular people are bad or bullies. Indeed, it might be kids somewhat on the outer who are putting others down to make themselves look good. I don’t know.

What is clear, though, is that bullying is having serious ramification a for young people and we as a community and as a culture need to stand up and make it very clear that it’s unacceptable. Indeed, that it’s a crime.

Now, to try to do something about it!

But…where do we begin…? Any ideas? I love to get a good discussion going.

xx Rowena