Archives for the month of: December, 2018

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I took this picture at dusk while walking by the canal. It made me think about reflections – both the physical and the contemplative kind. The twilight time of year is particularly conducive to the latter as we pause, consider and reconsider the year that ends, and move on in a (hopefully) more surefooted way to the commencing one.

Although I am not generally into New Year Resolutions, I do appreciate this pause, the freedom to reflect back on past months. David Sedaris believes that we tend to remember sadness, not happiness, happiness being harder to put into words. There is a truth in that. However, I remember many moments of exquisite joy in recent times, mostly derived from the simplest of things – the beauty of water, the sense of sun’s warmth on my face, the smiles and kindnesses of others, the awareness of earth beneath my feet…

I have learnt more about myself this past year than ever before, which has both surprised and at times shocked me. In his wonderful novel, Early Work, Andrew Martin states that “the provisional life is easily unmade.” I like this, it inspires hope. As does Anne Lamott in Almost Everything–Notes on Hope:

“We can change. People say we can’t, but we do when the stakes or the pain is high enough. And when we do, life can change. It offers more of itself when we agree to give up our busyness.”

One thing I have learnt over the past year is that being open to change makes the experience of living so much more fulfilling.

“Living is no laughing matter:

you must live with great seriousness

like a squirrel, for example–

I mean without looking for something

beyond and above living.

I mean living must be your whole occupation.”

from On Living, Nazim Hikmet

Life is indeed a serious business, the realisation of which grows year on year with age. Living it in a lighthearted way, however, need not contradict this realisation.

Beckett’s refrain “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” is particularly apt as the old year fades. For me, as the new year approaches, Larkin’s (uncharacteristically) optimistic words resonate:

“New eyes each year

Find old books here,

And new books, too,

Old eyes renew;

So youth and age

Like ink and page

In this house join,

Minting new coin.”

from Femmes Damnées, Philip Larkin

 

CQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have developed a thing for mirrors.

In my new space, I have a large one, something I have never had before. In fact, I pretty much avoided mirrors up to now, large and small.

Matthew Sweeney’s take on this resonates. From his essay, Huge Mirrors:

“This is an old apartment and therefore the mirrors are huge and ornate. They go with the high ornate ceilings… The problem is I’ve never been too fond of mirrors. I rarely look into them, and only then to make sure my hair isn’t sticking up, or there’s no toothpaste showing, or when I’m fine-trimming the beard, to make sure I’ve missed no section… As for gazing into the mirror to see if  I look OK enough to go out into the world, or — perish the thought — if I look attractive today, the answer is no wayQue sera, sera, as the song goes.”

Now, I seem to have swung the other way; I have deliberately chosen to house a large mirror in my otherwise sparsely furnished apartment. And I have positioned it in the living space so that I walk past it frequently, thus catching at least a glimpse of myself several times a day.

Sometimes I stop and stare.

Sometimes I watch myself dancing.

Sometimes I take selfies.

I have been reflecting on the why—the why of this shift in my relationship with mirrors, or at least with this one in particular.

At work, I initially resisted switching the camera on for conference calls, not wanting to be perpetually confronted by my screen face. I now no longer care. Not only does it not bother me, but I seem to have developed a intense curiosity about seeing “myself”. And this is not because I consider that age has suddenly made me attractive or “nice-to-look-at” ;)

I think it is more about shunning a previously held dualistic approach to personal identity. I have spent most of my life in my head, largely ignoring my physical self. My mind was an okay place to spend time and I could quite easily justify indulging it. I still do. Buying books is not difficult for me. Buying clothes can be more challenging.

This emergent sense of the totality of me began when I discovered yoga. Not only did it show me new ways of engaging with my body, but it also revealed how my mind and body could work symbiotically. Although I play the piano and the cello, I had never previously experienced the same synchronicity. Yoga encouraged me to believe that these two aspects of my self could be “friends.”

Hiding less from my physical self, I feel that I am getting to know me more authentically, more honestly, and thus moving towards a better recognition (and acceptance?) of self. As we approach another new year, my thoughts are not so much about changing me, physically, mentally or spiritually, but more about enhancing the me that I now see so that all components of who I am might live more harmoniously together.

As I walk by my mirror, and catch a glimpse of a reflected self, this witnessing of me, by me in the absence of others, reassures.

I exist. And my mirror never fails to tell me so.

 

CQ