Labyrinthitis is a b*tch!
Sorry it’s been so quiet over here at Blackbird on a Wire recently. For the past three weeks I’ve been suffering from what my GP diagnosed as “Labyrinthitis”. Yeah I know, I thought it sounded phoney too. I had the distinct impression that he was yanking my chain by offering me a placebo diagnosis to placate this old hypochondriac. But apparently it’s a real thing! A middle ear infection that rendered me dizzy, nauseous and generally good for nothing. But, after weeks of medication and relative bedrest (I am a mum of two after all), I’m feeling almost like my old self again, yay!
Just in time for Armistice Day today. On Tuesday I was asked by our church Curate to read a poem during the service. Being one who loves to hear her own voice, I jumped at the chance. Ever the student, I carefully prepared by reciting the poem to a select audience to ensure that I got the pitch, pace and the emphasis just right. But I needed a poppy, I couldn’t very well stand at the front of church on Remembrance Sunday without one. So I popped into our local M&S and bought some poppies for the whole family from a kind older gentleman who had served in the RAF during the war. I spent some time talking to him about his experiences. He kept telling me that he was no hero, that he was just one of the lucky ones, but I don’t believe him. I cannot imagine the terror that faced him and countless other young men and women when war was declared. No choice but to serve. To fight for a worthy cause no doubt, but to fight nonetheless. Fear and faith in equal measure.
That’s quite honestly how I’m feeling myself these days. Nothing nearly so traumatic as a world war to face, but becoming self employed has been my own personal battle. So much unknown and unknowable, seemingly so much at stake. But I must press on, fear and faith in equal measure. And as I looked at the familiar faces in the pews, many aged gracefully with time, I thought again about that scared young man who was forced to be brave for his country. I thought about the thousands upon thousands of men, women and children who did not get to see peace triumph. And so I read.
Tears of victory
There were crowds in the street of London
the day the peace was signed,
they sang in exaltation; they danced, they wined, they dined;
for the dreadful war was over, the slaughter at an end,
and now at last a broken world perhaps could start to mend.
But despite the celebrations, behind the happy cries,
a multitude were weeping, no laughter in their eyes.
For these there was no reason to share the festive mood;
their hearts were bowed with sorrow,
their every thought subdued.
For while the throng around them gave vent to shouts of joy,
they grieved a loving husband, they mourned their precious boy,
they thought of dads and brothers, of cousins, nephews too,
of uncles, colleagues, trusted friends, so many they once knew.
So when some talk of glory, of mighty deeds once done,
think also of the suffering with which it all was won.
And when they speak of victory upon that glorious day,
remember all those buried in pastures far away.
It’s true that time’s a healer, this conflict long ago,
it’s true we’ve learned to live with those who once we labelled foe;
but many still are haunted by thoughts of those they lost,
still struggling with their feelings, still wrestling with the cost.
So if you’d truly honour the names of those who fell,
then work for peace and justice, and make your freedom tell.
There is no way more fitting to help repay the debt,
nor better way of saying: we never shall forget.
Honestly, there’s so much that can be said about this poem. The pain and the loss are laid bare for all to see. In the light of the current political climate in the West, how many of those that are clamouring for division and segregation are doing so with peace in mind? Too few I fear. It also got me thinking about my youth, my future and the dreams of my past. What will people imagine of my life when all that’s left to remind them are grey hairs and scars? I have spent so long worrying about doing the right thing, I risked not doing anything. All those years wasted feeling insecure and fearful! If I could talk to my younger self, I would say this…
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
I suffer from that well known cursed affliction of the first-born, perfectionism. And whilst I would never dream of expecting perfection from others, I have a hard time not achieving it myself. That fear of not being good enough has held me back from so much. Better not to try, than to try and fail right? Wrong! I now view mistakes as learning opportunities, a chance to grow. Finally I know that the only things I truly regret in life are the things that I didn’t do. So even if I make a fool of myself, I am going to go out there and take the bull by the horns, damn it! I’m going to take risks, to take that opportunity, never knowing where it might lead.
- Do not be so prescriptive with your life.
Boxes are neat, but people are not meant to live in them. My penchant for all things organised extends far too far sometimes. I have a limited ability at times to see beyond the ordered and expected way things should go. If you manage projects, then you are a project manager and thus you always shall be. Not so! I am able to be whoever and whatever I choose to be. If I want to write, then I shall write. If I want to sing, then I shall sing. I do not have to be or do only one thing. After all, there is no one way to be successful. There isn’t a right or a wrong way, there is only your way. Success means such different things to different people, that we should be the ones to define it for ourselves. Just because our life doesn’t look like we imagined, doesn’t mean that we aren’t successful.
- Fear is NOT your friend.
Do not believe those dark voices that tell you that you can’t or that you’re not good enough. Balls to that! You have been fearfully and wonderfully made. Those voices do not serve to protect you from big mistakes or from embarrassing failures. They instead keep you from your greatest triumphs, by discouraging you from even trying. Now go get ’em!
- It’s not your job to save the world.
Jesus already did that. All you’ve got to do is love it. Love deeply, hold tightly, forgive swiftly, and live.
Remember circa 2009 when everybody was walking around with wristbands that said WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)? Well I’m pretty sure that if I asked him, He would say something along the lines of…
My daughter, you have not lost your way. You have not missed out on a talent. You have not been short-changed on intelligence, on beauty, on personality, on gifts. You are not supposed to be more coordinated, more funny, more organized, more entertaining. You are not supposed to talk more, lead more, run more, do more.
You are not failing. You are not falling. You are not disappointing . . . Not when you are resting in Me. Not when you are looking to Me for your worth. Not when you are stopping to listen . . . and listening often enough so you recognize the sound of my voice.
Each daughter hears my voice differently, you know. But I am familiar, the same voice, recognized by the children who listen close.
My daughter, do not fret about being more or being less, doing the right thing and not making mistakes.
Take a risk and fall down.
Take a risk and not know what you’re doing.
Take a risk and feel ill-equipped to finish the task.
Take a risk and feel overwhelmed.
And then stop. . .
Did you invite Me in? Did you do these things on your own, on your own strength? What strength was that, child?
You are made to soar, to risk—with Me—and see Me and grab my hand and live unlike you’ve ever lived before: Free.
Stop pondering the ways you need to do life differently. Stop second-guessing where I am and what I love doing with you and how amazing and beautiful I’ve made you to be.
You, my daughter, are the princess-warrior who knows who she is and goes forward saying ‘yes’ to situations where you have to rely on Me.
And then, girl, you will see more of what I see. Then, girl, you will see more of you.
And you will stop second-guessing.
And life with Me will make more sense.
If you could spend a moment to reflect upon your life, to view your younger self with the wisdom you have since acquired, what would you say? Think about it and feel free to post your thoughts in the comments or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll leave you with images of elderly people looking at their younger selves taken from the award winning photo series “Reflections of The Past”, by commercial photographer Tom Hussey. The images show elderly people looking pensively at images of their younger selves. Hussey was inspired by a World War II veteran that he met who coulldn’t believe that he was about to turn 80. “I feel like I just came back from the war. I look in the mirror and I see this old guy.” See, it’s not just me! Time surely flies, so it is down to us to make the most of this life whilst we still can. I hope that it inspires you as much as it does me.
Blackbird, out X.