“Voulez vous des bananes?” asked a wiry built darkly tanned man with very little clothes on, as he jumped out of the bush in front of us, on the dirt path. We stopped, and he stepped forward, offering his hand to my parents. “Je suis Etienne,” he said.
I didn’t know much French at the time, but after 30 days at sea, with no fresh fruit, a banana sounded wonderful. My parents nodded in consent, and within a few minutes, Etienne had returned, not with a banana, nor one for each of us, but with a whole bunch of bananas. We’d never seen so many in our lives, having lived the comfortable life of supermarkets in Los Angeles, where each banana was perfectly formed, and came with a Chiquita sticker on it.
This bunch, with stubby yellowing and green bananas, some ripe, some still hard, was hard to carry back to the boat, but my dad did so, inviting Etienne back to join us for a drink and snacks. My dad strung the bananas up on one of the spreaders, and as we sunk our teeth into the soft, sweet fruit, I swore to learn some French so I could thank Etienne (and get more of these fresh bananas). My parents gave him some goodies in return for the bananas, and he became our fast friend, on that first island, Nuka Hiva, that we visited in the Marquesas.
Do you have a banana story to share? Feel free to share below!
A is for Audrey
Audrey is the name my parents gave me – which makes me think of Lady Bird – the movie, where the girl renames herself as an act of rebellion, only to think about it differently as she gets a little bit of perspective.
As for me, I am actually called Gail Audrey – but even my parents NEVER used the name Gail. It was given as a sign of respect to my departed grandmother – Gertrude. Speaking of whom, I had hardly heard anything about this grandmother of mine, until a few years ago when my father told me how much he had cried when she died, too young, while he was still at university. And how he felt almost ashamed to be in such grief. ‘Men must be men,’ was the message in his family. His father had already lost a previous wife. His brother had lost a mother. They were hardened, and he should have been too. I rarely see my father’s vulnerable side. He has covered it up with rational logic, with scientific understanding, with innovation, with control over what he could control.
And Audrey too, she hides behind her second name, her middle name. She has a secret first name that no one (but my faithful blog readers and a few others) know of. Audrey has suited her well. Beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, a first child, an independent woman, in old Shakespearean English, Audrey means noble, which Audrey has always wanted to be, but never felt quite there. What does it mean to be noble, anyway? Proud and arrogant, or is it being born in the right place at the right time? Is it a state of mind? Wait – dear Google – what does it mean to be noble?
Noble: having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles.“the promotion of human rights was a noble aspiration”
Aha, so perhaps I do have some nobility in me after all. I do my best, at least. I feel this blog is meandering. Where is the story, you might ask?
Once upon a time, in a state called California, there was a girl named Audrey. She grew up thinking she was very different from many of her classmates, just because she loved to daydream, and read books. She was a bit of a tom-boy too!
One day, her parents took her out of school and sailed around the world with her. Now she knew she was different. But at least now she had a reason; she was a ‘boat girl.’
In high school, she wore a t-shirt from Tahiti, an island she had visited a few years earlier. But Tahiti sounds similar to the word in Hebrew (she now lived in Israel), ‘ta-i-ti’ – which means “I made a mistake.” Audrey made lots of mistakes, because apart from being an unusual person, who had only her own moral compass to travel by, she also had lived outside of peer society for a few years. Then she moved to a new country where she was definitely a fish out of water. In high school it’s hard enough to fit in even in your own culture. She was a friendly, outgoing person, but still, on the edge of the group. She wasn’t really a group person, after all.
And eventually, Audrey grew up, married, had kids – the great equalizer – moved to yet another country, got divorced, got remarried – and now she is a unique being at a time in her life when it’s okay to be different. Not too different, though, after all, the Dutch do like you to fit in. After a certain age, and with a certain amount of internal strength and resilience, Audrey is finally learning that she is fine just as she is.
And that’s our first letter of the alphabet challenge (which I just discovered was an April Challenge, but, so what? I like to be different, right?)
In case you aren’t sure whether to read this or not… I have been dealing with an issue of cooperation in my team. I happened to be at a workshop on Problem Solving, in which I was able to use the method of Intervision to find several ways I could ensure better cooperation. Read on to find out how!
I know that “getting people on board” is the way to accomplish a joint goal. Because as a former sailor, I know that if you leave people behind, while you are the one sailing, they will just be watching from the sidelines and may or may not even know how much fun you are having as you enjoy the cool breeze, the lapping of the waves and the occasional little salty spray that brings a smile to your face as you negotiate your course up the river, across the sea, or even just tacking around the lake.
If they knew what fun I was having on my virtual boat, they’d really want to join in. And I wouldn’t want them to be jealous when there is definitely room for more on this vessel. If they were afraid to get seasick – I’d offer dramamine and life jackets, and a promise to return to the dock as soon they aren’t comfy. You never know how much fun it is to sail together until you’ve given it a try, so why not jump aboard?
My team at work isn’t sure they like sailing at all. Or if they like it, they don’t have time to sail, don’t want to learn how to sail, or would prefer to do other things on their long to-do lists. And yes, if I were sailing a small boat on a lake on a summer’s day, this wouldn’t be a problem. I’d just enjoy myself and stop when I was done. I’d still have fun, sailing by myself.
But in this case, it’s more like I’m crossing the Atlantic ocean on a biggish yacht, where I need to also take off some time for sleep and we have to get to New York by a certain date, when our new passengers will join us. And if I’m sailing, trimming sails, navigating, then who will cook meals, and check my calculations and also take over some of the watches? I can’t do it all – it’s not a summer’s day ‘job’.
Yesterday, I pulled myself out of sick leave, (just got over a mega stomach bug), and was at an Adlerian event – “National Courage Day” (one of the main principles of Adlerian psychology is ‘Encouragement.’ ), where I had chosen to join the workshop “Samen problemen oplossen” [Together solving problems], led by the very experienced Theo Joosten. Secretly, I hoped to find a way to solve some of my own problems, but at the very least, to learn something new that I could use to help others solve their problems.
Intervision*(see definition below)
Suicide is far from painless
“Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please.”
You might recognize this from the theme song from M*A*S*H.
1. Talk about it: Suicide #1
Last week, I had intended to post a blog about the topic, after someone I knew, a mother to three kids, a woman my own age, decided to end her own life. I felt such a surge of strong emotions, even though I wasn’t personally that close. At the funeral, which I attended to support her family and children, the intense anger, emptiness, the questions, the tears, the extreme sorrow were impossible to miss. Her nephew gave his eulogy and intentionally broke it off without an ending. One of the children wouldn’t or couldn’t speak about her mother.
2. Sometimes humor helps
If I were immensely talented, I would try, like in the Guilty Feminist podcast that I’ve been listening to lately, to make this a funny post about a very sad and serious matter. But I’m only me, immensely imperfect, just like the rest of us, so let me just speak from the heart. Sometimes using black humor with a trusted friend can be a relief. Sometimes, it’s okay to laugh, and of course, to cry.
3. Reframe, and try to understand –
Suicide #2 Tragic Death #2
This week, I got another call, this time, much closer to home, about a friend of ours, whose daughter – only 16 – had ended her life. There’s no regretting this decision. It’s final. And somehow, I doubt it’s painless.
- How does a family pick up the pieces after such a death?
- Perhaps it’s similar to a terminal illness, where you fear the worst but hope for the best?
- Is death ‘the end’ or finally a peaceful beginning for tortured souls?
- Is this a selfish act, or just self-centered, because when you are in so much mental and emotional anguish – it seems the only path to choose?
Oh, you want answers? Sorry, but it’s too late. There are none.
4. Love and remember the person as they were in life
The girl who was beautiful, talented, intelligent, a friend to many, a leader, a twin (yes that hurts, right?) had the presence of mind to leave a goodbye letter via social media before she made this irreversible change to her life. There was no real blame in this message, mostly a wish that her friends would find the strength to go on lead long and meaningful lives. It sounded like a message from someone who was old and wise, and had spent her days here on earth and now had to move on.
5. Acknowledge the pain
She moved on, perhaps to a better place, but it is not painless. The family – the siblings, the father, the mother, the aunts, the uncles, the little niece who lives nextdoor and doesn’t understand where her favorite auntie is – they are suffering terribly. And I fear the pain will get worse, before it gets better. What of the friends, the teachers, the therapists, the mentors… the list goes on. Everyone is left with a burden. To me, it feels like a black, hard, indigestible lump of coal stuck in my guts.
6. Know you are not alone
No home goes unscathed when it comes to grief. It comes to us in many forms. I, too, have lost a child to an unrelenting illness. If you want to see Yarden’s site – please do.
Like in this well known fable: A bereaved father begs God, “Please God, let my son come back to life, and God replies: “If you can find one home in your village where no one has had a death in the family, then I will return your child to you.” And of course there is no such family, as death is part of life. And we do, as my friend’s wise daughter said, have to keep on choosing life and keep on believing that with time, all hurts will heal.
7. Find many ways of coping
There isn’t one sure way – each person has their own, and I wasn’t sure how to end this post, but remembered another friend, who lost her son, told me that this book, “Mourning has broken: a collection of creative writing about grief and healing” edited by Mara Koven and Liz Pearl, with its short pieces on mourning, helped her and the boy’s grandmother through hard times. I have a short piece in it too, about coping with my son’s loss. I remember that writing it wasn’t easy for me. Although I had a lot of support and worked actively to cope, it still took me quite a few iterations until I was able to write a suitable piece, as the editors insisted it have a positive angle.
May we find peace and gratitude even in the smallest things in life.
Sorry April Fools Day, but it’s no laughing matter!
Earlier this week I was downstairs in the living room, watching Netflix, when I got an email from my husband, who was upstairs in our bedroom. He wanted to set a time to meet with our tax advisor. It wasn’t the first time that he’d sent me an email, instead of talking to me face to face. Now, you should know that my husband and I are definitely on talking terms. In fact, we really have good conversations – about everything. We see each other daily, share a house, a bedroom, etc. I stomped upstairs, and before opening the bedroom door, took a few deep breaths to calm myself. Although it wasn’t the first time he or I told each other something via email, this time it felt like the last straw in a labyrinth of emails that I just can’t seem to escape.
Please cut me off!
My work email now has a bright red warning on it that I’ve reach my quota and soon I will be unable to send mail.
You know what, Microsoft Outlook and school server, I eagerly await that day! Please cut me off! Every time a colleague wants to inform us of what they are doing – it’s done by email. Same for the management, and the students think that they can send emails to ask anything from ‘What time is our lesson?’ (It’s on the schedule!) to ‘Why did you give me this grade?” (Read my elaborate feedback form!)
Oh Fatherly (newsletter) – leave me alone!
Like my many emails from school aren’t enough, I’ve got 2 private email accounts – a gmail account for my life coaching and Intuitive painting classes, and a ‘regular’ private account, which I recently changed since the previous one was so full of spam that I could never find my ‘real’ email messages. Why I ever started getting newsletters from Fatherly, for example, is beyond me. And why can’t I unsubscribe? No clue.
When we started using email, it seemed so miraculous… Friends and family could be contacted the same day, without the crazy costs of a phone call. Nowadays, a phone call is so much easier than a bunch of back and forth emails that waste my time and that of the person I’m talking to, but most of us don’t do that any more. We don’t want to disturb the other person by intruding on them with a voice call. Hello, I’m drowning here in emails!
Tip: Read mail LIFR (last in, first read)
When I read my emails from work, which I have learned to do only twice a day maximum, when I can actually answer them, I read them last to first. That way, half of them are already answered. For example:
First email (from a student): Sunday @9:45 pm. “Do you know when we are meeting for our mentor meeting?”
- Second email: Sunday @11 pm. “I don’t know why you’re not answering me, I have been waiting for an hour already.”
- Second email: @11:15 pm. “Oh, wait, I’ve found the email you sent last week. It’s on Monday, (tomorrow), at 12:00, right?”
- Third email (which I’ve read last, thankfully): Sunday @01:30 am. “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to make this meeting, as I have a driving class tomorrow. Sorry for the late notice, but you didn’t answer my emails earlier.”
I don’t know what to do at this point in my life with the mountains of emails or how to get out of the labyrinth. Do you? In the past, when I worked in customer service, I’d get a similar pile of emails per day, and after I had read them, and answered them, I’d have done my job. But nowadays, it’s not an integral part of ‘my job’ to solve problems via email. The majority of my work is done on my feet, meeting students face-to-face, in class. Apart from that, I prepare lessons, I correct homework reports, I design new courses. My job doesn’t actually entail email correspondence. Except that it does.
Email has become an allergy that makes us all itch with irritation and like that allergy that you have but don’t know what’s causing it – it’s not easy to get rid of. If you really want to talk to me, better pick up the phone or wait to see me face to face, cause I’m happy to go fast forward to the good ol’ days before we were enslaved by all these piles of ‘You’ve got mail.’
Do you dream? Of course you do! Some people remember their dreams, but others never do. A good way to remember your dreams, if you want to, is to keep a notebook next to your bed, and to write down anything that comes to mind BEFORE getting out of bed!
In this blog, I discuss two very similar dreams that I had – only a few weeks apart. But while the first shows the despair of being ‘lost’, the second has a more positive direction.
The first dream: Lost in the Highlands
The first dream happened a few weeks ago. I’d been reading Voyager, and so it was no surprise that my dream took place somewhere in Scotland. When I tweeted about my dream, @lidywilks suggested that “Lost in the Highlands” would make a great working title for a new novel. Since I’ve never been there, I guess I’ll have to leave that up to Diana Gabaldon for now!
In this dream, (not yet a novel), I was hiking in the countryside, in Scotland, on a beautiful green hilly path, when I realized that I could not find my way back to my husband and friends, seeing as I had no idea where I was and had only a part of a map. If you knew me, you’d understand how much that would drive me crazy. I like to know where I’m going. I know how to read maps, (yup, back from the boat days), and I hate to get lost.
In my non-dream life: Ultra stressed at work – spilling into home life as well
Like humans all over the work world, I too get super stressed when there are deadlines looming, and too much responsibility piling up on my shoulders. I’d been ‘promoted’ with more hours and more responsibility, but had yet to learn how to delegate tasks or ask for help. It wasn’t an easy time. Who likes to ask for directions when you’re lost?
The second dream: Fishing in the Highlands