Ity – What is it without the Real?

True story:

A man using a phone Box, in the city of Melbou...

Once when I was a teacher, I received a phone call from the father of a child I taught.  The man was clearly in a state of the most acute distress.  He told me that his wife had been diagnosed with incurable cancer, that she was about to undergo a double mastectomy but this would only prolong her life slightly.  He said he’d done his best to explain the situation to their children and asked whether I would keep a special eye on the little lad in my class and give him as much support as I could.  Naturally, I agreed and offered my sympathy.

A week later, I had a second phone call – from the man’s wife this time.  She told me they had been to see the consultant together.  She had said she wished to have the operation as a precautionary measure, since her mother, sister and several other female relatives had died from breast cancer.  The consultant had made it quite clear that she had no trace of the disease and was entirely healthy.  However he agreed to her request.  Her husband, she told me, had completely misunderstood the situation.  She apologised for the confusion caused by the call I’d received from him and emphasised that she was in perfect health.

Chatting the situation through later with a colleague who was an experienced psychiatrist, I asked how on earth two people, sitting in the same room and hearing the same words could come away with such diametrically different ideas of what had taken place.
“Oh it happens more often than you would believe,” she replied. “Everyone brings their own expectations to the table.  I’ve sat in more meetings than you can imagine where people are simply unable to see beyond their own preconceptions into anything approaching an objective reality.”

So do we do that?  Do we bend reality through the filters of our own experience and world view, so that we end up believing – totally and utterly – our own warped version of events?  It would seem so.  Yet after pondering this subject for many years, a new thought occurred to me.  Is there actually an objective ‘reality’ out there at all?  Is there some logical, rigidly defined Truth which we all recognise to a greater or lesser degree but can only see imperfectly?  What if there is only some wavering, constantly shifting state which we are not perceiving but creating with all those preconceptions and ideas?

It’s remarkably difficult to let go of the concept of reality.  We’ve been reared to believe that there is this solid, true world, one which religious leaders, politicians or scientists, maybe, are able to explain to us and translate for us.  We’ve been buffeted for centuries with the words of our ‘elders and betters’ who tell us what to believe – what is true.

Suddenly, though – just within our own short lifetimes – ALL of their truths have been gathered together in one place and we have been given almost unlimited access to the whole lot.  We press a couple of buttons on our devices and we have our very own comparison site.  We can see the inconsistencies, the bias, the spin.  Does this help us to see to the core?  Can we now, with all that information laid bare before us, peel away the layers of the onion?  Can we search for the truth at its centre?

English: Photograph of actor Henrik Klausen as...

Henrik Ibsen had his character Peer Gynt do exactly that.  Here’s what he discovered:

What an enormous number of swathings!
Isn’t the kernel soon coming to light?

(Pulls the whole onion to pieces.)

I’m blest if it is! To the innermost centre,
it’s nothing but swathings – each smaller and smaller.-
Nature is witty!

So if there’s no objective reality – no nub of truth at the centre – just what we create for ourselves, let’s create something fantastic.

 

 

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A Fairytale Finale

English: Ballet shool Deutsch: Tanzklasse

A true story, this – and if not stranger than fiction, it at least has more or less all the features of a fairytale.

Those of you with long memories, who have been following my blog for quite a while, may remember the Tale of Tuesday.  Tuesday (her real name, for once, as I’m sure someday she’ll be famous) was a young girl I taught here in Somerset until a year or so back.  My job was to teach her maths and English.  It wasn’t always easy, as sitting at a table writing was the hardest thing in the world for her.
“I need to MOVE!” she’d say, so there would be several breaks in a lesson when she was allowed to waft around the study, arms and feet stretching and waving wildly, before settling for a bit more learning.

All she wanted to do – and I truly mean ALL – was to dance.

Her ballet teacher told her parents  how talented she was.  She advised them to try for a place at a ballet school.  So it was that, in the spring of last year, Tuesday was accepted at one of London’s most prestigious (and expensive) ballet schools.  Now she was not from some wealthy, upper-middle class family.  The cost of moving to London, paying rent there and covering her fees would have been prohibitive at the best of times but this, it turned out, was the worst of times.

No sooner had Tuesday got her place, than her father was diagnosed with cancer.  He is one of the most focused people I’ve ever met, and thinks the world of his daughter.  He’d been quite prepared to work all hours to fund her place, but his health deteriorated very fast and things became incredibly difficult.

So do you believe in magic?  Friends rallied round, a crowd-funding appeal was set up and somehow – none of us are quite sure how it happened – the rent, the fees and the cost of all the extras a young dancer needs were paid month by month.  I know that some of my blog followers were kind enough to contribute to her fund, so heartfelt thanks to them.

Those were hard and difficult days.  Her mother was worried sick each day.  Her dad was battling his illness and still trying to work when he could.  Tuesday struggled to fit in with a class of children from very different backgrounds to herself.  When I met up with them in London last Christmas things looked bleak.  None of us knew what would happen.

Bridge, Wood, Forest, Woods, Tree, TreesTime for a sprinkling of fairy dust now, though.

The ballet school discovered the desperate situation the family were in.  They also discovered that Tuesday was an outstanding dancer – one they wanted to hold on to.  They offered her a bursary, so that she could keep attending for free.  Her dad was moved to one of London’s best hospitals specialising in cancer, so that he had access to pioneering treatment and expert care.  He’s still with us.  Tuesday began to earn the respect of her classmates and to fit in far better.  By the summer, things were looking up.

Every Christmas, the school puts on a performance of The Nutcracker at a small London theatre.  When I discovered that Tuesday had been chosen to dance Clara – the leading role, I knew I had to go and watch.

As in all fairy tales, though, there are twists and turns in the plot right up to the end.  The theatre was closed at very short notice and it seemed the show would have to be cancelled.  I did tell you it was a prestigious school, didn’t I?  There were friends in high places and somehow or other they were given the run of one of the most famous theatres in London’s West End for a day.

Statue of Anna Pavlova on the dome of the Vict...

Thus it was that I found myself sitting in the royal circle, watching the most magical production, while the little girl who had twirled and glided around my study just a year or so before was giving an immaculate performance and capturing the hearts of everyone in the audience.

The ballet school had thoughtfully sent a car to pick her father up, so that he would be able to watch.  During the interval Darcey Bussell – one of the UK’s most celebrated ballerinas – introduced herself to him and told him how brilliant Tuesday’s performance was.

I just could not have been happier and prouder as I watched Tuesday take her curtain call and accept a bouquet of flowers with poise and grace that belied her tender age.

On the tube going home, I overheard a couple discussing the show.
“That little girl who danced the lead,” said the man, “What a future she has ahead of her!”
“She was splendid,” agreed his partner.

She was.

 

 

 

 

Thinner than blood?

Blood, they say, is thicker than water.  Maybe so.  Sometimes, though, the thinner, more watery relationships can show a surprising strength and tenacity.  Ours has.

Wondering what might have happened if… is a fairly pointless occupation, but I do sometimes find myself considering how my life and William’s would have been, had he not, at the tender age of six, joined the class I was teaching and had his mother not, almost immediately after that, developed breast cancer and slowly and sadly passed over just a few years later.

Regardless of what might have been, those things all happened.  I believe that’s the way all three of us – at soul level – planned it.

I was destined to devote many years of my working life to helping children with speech and language difficulties and autistic spectrum perception communicate with the rest of us, and many more years helping this one boy in particular.

Scrutinizing facial expressions

William was a child with a formidable intellect, an enhanced sensitivity which made ‘normal’ sounds, tastes or smells virtually unbearable, a gift for strategy bordering on brilliance (he was the school chess champion at 7, thrashing talented 11-year-old opponents – and me! – with consummate ease), marked telepathic skills, a smile that would melt the hardest heart and hardly any comprehensible spoken language.  While he would spend endless hours contemplating life, the universe and everything, watching Star Trek and devising codes and cyphers, he was totally baffled by everyday life and found other children particularly puzzling.  He couldn’t read facial expressions or tones of voice.  He could follow only the simplest of verbal instructions and idioms or sarcasm threw him into a meltdown.

I was fascinated – totally hooked – by this intriguing little kid, long before the tragedies in his life threw us together.

I did my best.  I befriended and supported his mum, did what I could to help the family – taking the children out to give the parents some time together or sitting with the mum so that Dad and the boys could have some afternoons doing normal family stuff together.  My head teacher came and read stories to the class once a week, so that I could give William some individual time to draw pictures, talk through his fears, his nightmares, his frustrations and fury.  A strong bond started to form between us.  Inasmuch as he could trust anyone in those days when his world was falling apart, he trusted me.

Later I’d visit his mum at the hospice.  We talked through what was to come and she begged me to stay in touch with him and keep caring and helping him after she’d gone and after he’d left my class.  I promised.

Teen, Teenager, Boy, Teens, MaleCaring was never a problem.  Helping often was.  There were times in the years that followed when we got along amazingly well together.  We shared many interests – chess, train journeys, a fascination with cosmology, time travel, past lives and the like.  There were times when he retreated totally and refused to speak to me.  There were times when he wanted to talk on the phone for hours every night.  There were dodgy mates and dangerous situations.  Adolescence is something of a tightrope for even the most well-adjusted boy.  Add in difficulties reading social situations and hidden motives, family rifts (he didn’t get along well with his new step-mother), childhood trauma and residual speech difficulties and you have a drug-pusher’s dream client, a bully’s perfect victim and someone guaranteed to swell the coffers of the local off-licence.

Falkensteiner Cave, Cave, Caves PortalI carried on doing my best.  I made it plain that I’d be there, whatever happened, and somehow – even when I’d more or less given up all hope – he’d eventually drift back into my life, start to share his amazing and original ideas with me again, and I would keep them safe.  There would be strange predictions about the future, diagrams of the cosmos, theories about anything from life after death to interdimensional portals.  I kept them in old journals, on scraps of paper and in all manner of files on my hard drive.  It felt important.

What happened to William, and all those words, will follow.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

Catching up and Patching up

Gradually, day by day, life is returning to an acceptable state of affairs.  As I’ve found so many times in my LIME Cottage adventure, once I put myself in a positive mindset and expect everything to go well, it begins to do just that.

The huge engineer who came to fix my broadband on Monday was absurdly grateful for the coffee.  I was the first person that day, he told me, who had given him a friendly welcome.  He’s the ‘last resort man’, he explained – the one they send out when all others have failed.  Therefore he is often greeted by angry, disgruntled customers.  One woman that morning had sworn and screamed at him so much he’d withdrawn to his van for a while, to consider whether to go ahead with the job.

“Then I thought, well what do I know?” he said.  “She might have lost her mum last week or something.  There’s probably a reason she’s behaving that way and it’s her problem, not mine.  So I went in and did the job – got it working perfectly – and then she was leaping about, saying ‘You fixed it!  You fixed it! What did you do?’  And I’ll probably get into trouble for this but before I answered I told her she owed me an apology.  And I got one.  I still feel pretty shaky about it, though.”

I felt honoured to have met this thoughtful and sensitive man.  He sorted out my internet connection and promised to give me a call in a couple of weeks to check that everything is going well.

The old sink has gone.  A kind friend helped me load it into her car and take it to the local tip.

English: Wooden flooring Français : Parquet en...

Yesterday more delightful men arrived to put down my new flooring.  I’d been looking forward to that for several reasons: partly because I’d be rid of the ugly stained and ripped brown vinyl that had covered the kitchen, hall and bathroom; partly because until it was fitted my new sink can’t go in, but mostly because the workmen would be removing everything in my kitchen – including the fridge and washing machine.  That meant no more hiding places for rodents!  Even the darkest corners were revealed to be gloriously rat-free  – and the new floor looks lovely.

Other wonderful things have happened in my life, too.

I’ve been invited to stay for a few days in a house on the west coast of Ireland at the end of the week.  A friend of a friend is opening her doors to both of us – despite only having met me once, very briefly – and offering peace, tranquillity and views of the Atlantic and distant mountains.  It sounds the perfect antidote to the chaos and craziness here and the lady’s kindness touches me deeply.

I had a beautiful letter from little Tuesday – my ballet dancing ex-pupil.  She’s settling into her London dance school, struggling to be accepted by the other students, all of whom are from a very different background, worrying about her dad, whose tumour has grown larger, and unsure whether there will be enough money to pay for a second term at the school.  (Please click here if you’d like to read her story and maybe even help her family out.)  I hope she won’t mind if I quote briefly from her letter:

“I sound really angry but the ballet makes me feel like I’m in a beautiful  fairy land and I love it. The school is amazing but the girls are very prissy and it shocked me as I thought everyone would be nice but nothing in this 16 universes will put me off ballet.  I can feel it.  It helps me be happy in life.”

So rather a mixed up post this week, as I finally get the chance to write from my own computer, but linked perhaps by the way in which all of us interconnect and affect each others’ lives in ways we sometimes barely realise.  Each of us is on a journey to find what makes us ‘happy in life’, and to help others feel the same.

Normal service will resume when I return from County Mayo, refreshed and ready for the final push.

 

More About Tuesday’s Tale

http://www.gofundme.com/c6erv4

IMG_3085As promised a few weeks back, here is an update on the story of T – the little ballet star I work with whose father has untreatable cancer.

You can find my original post here.

Firstly, I want to send a huge, massive, heartfelt THANK YOU to all the kind and caring people who donated to my original appeal for help for Tuesday and her family.  As you will see, if you go to the ‘Go Fund Me’ site, your donations have already made a massive impact and T’s Mum and Dad would like me to pass on their gratitude and wonder that people who have never met them can be so kind.

If – understandably! – you felt uncomfortable sending a donation via my PayPal account, you’ll be pleased to know that there is now a proper funding site set up.  You’ll find details, and T’s own version of her story here.

I’m very much aware that being asked for money dredges up all kinds of resistance in all of us.

I can’t speak for others, but the kind of thoughts that go through my mind are:
“Hey, I’m on a really limited income.  Is it reasonable to expect me to give some of my money to someone I don’t even know?”
or “The world is full of deserving cases.  Why should I give to this one?  How on earth do I choose?”
or “I can only afford to give £x (or even x pence) and people will think I’m really mean if I only give that much.”
When we’re made to feel uncomfortable by thoughts like that, the easiest way out is to put the whole thing aside and move on.
I’m not great at this fundraising lark, but these are people I know and care about, so I’d love to see them fulfil their dream, whatever adventures and wonders this new phase of their life will bring them.
If it helps, you can donate via Go Fund Me keeping your identity anonymous if you wish, so if you only feel comfortable giving 50 pence or 50 cents, that’s just fine.  All the money and the energy of kind, caring people will build up and help this family to move forwards.

Thanks again to everyone who has already donated, shared the link and sent healing energy to T’s family.

Tuesday’s Tale

English: Ballerina oil painting “Oh why do I have to learn this stuff?” T asks, her small face screwed up with frustration and incomprehension.

It’s Tuesday morning.  We’re working on the properties of three-dimensional shapes. “I mean, I’m going to be a ballerina!”

One of her dramatic sighs follows and I grin sympathetically.

With some kids, I’d branch off into sacred geometry at this point, but not this time.  With others I’d talk about the uses of shape and space in construction, engineering, architecture and the like, but T isn’t going to be an engineer or an architect.  She’s going to be a ballerina.

Another dramatic sigh, accompanied by such wild flexing of limbs that I have to duck to avoid the flailing arms.

Whenever I’m teaching T, I have the uneasy sensation that I’m caging a butterfly.  She does her best to learn and we get along just fine, but sitting still for two hours at a stretch is far from easy for her.  She just isn’t wired that way.

“Go on,” I say.  “Have a few twirls around the room, then let’s get back to work.”

T has just turned eleven.  She’s not just a small girl with a romantic dream.  She’s a magical, exceptional, brilliant dancer.  She’s been accepted for a place a one of the UK’s most prestigious dance academies  in September.  They have only 8 places a year and the admission standard is ridiculously high. Her mum and dad were stunned and overflowing with pride when she got her place. Nederlands: ballet dancer - detail

The effort she has put into her dancing is incredible.  The effort her parents have put into supporting her is similarly so.  Her mother travels all over Somerset and beyond with her on buses and car shares to get her to dance classes, auditions and performances.  Her self-employed dad has worked all hours to earn the money to fund the lessons, costumes, travel costs and so forth.  They’ve been determined that nothing will get between T and her dream. Now she has her place at the academy, of course, the costs will rocket.  It will involve moving from Somerset to London and paying huge tuition fees.

All that was fine.  Everything was set.  Dad was confident that he could earn enough, if he put everything else aside. The trouble is, one of those things he put aside was the dodgy mole.  He kept meaning to get it checked at the doctors…

When he did, the diagnosis wasn’t good.   The cancer has spread to his limbs and his lungs.  The doctors are calling it incurable.

They don’t look for problems, T’s family, they look for solutions.

Her mum, with characteristic zeal, has researched alternative treatments and come up with one that claims a 40% success rate – the Gerson diet.  It involves juicing huge amounts of fruit and vegetables for him – about 8kg a day – and more-or-less ties her to the kitchen.

Her dad – well, we can only guess at his feelings.  Having always been the provider, he has been trying to carry on working, to make sure the fees for her first term can be paid by September.  When he does that, he is stressing his body and not allowing it to heal.

That was the point at which T’s mum had called me.  Did I know any fundraisers – someone who could take the pressure off the family and raise enough to get T through her first year at the academy?

“Why me?  And why NOW?” the small reptilian part of my brain asked – the part that’s hell-bent on self-preservation.  “This will take massive amounts of time and effort and energy… I’ve done this life experience before – several times.  I’ve supported children I teach through the illness, sometimes even the death of a parent.  I’ve helped them with fundraising.  Couldn’t the Universe share things out a bit?  I have so much else to deal with right now…”

And here was T, sitting in my study on this Tuesday morning, telling me she’s going to be a ballerina.

What was I supposed to say?  ‘Actually no, sweetheart, you’re not.  You’ll be going to the local comprehensive, there won’t be any money left for dance classes and on top of that, your dad’s cancer is terminal.’

No.  I would not be saying that.

Miracle Machine

Miracle Machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Walk your talk,” the other end of my consciousness from the reptile was telling me.  “Think about it.  You believe in creating miracles.  You’ve been blogging on about it for months.

” Why have you been given this life experience again?  Why do you think??  Because this time, you have something new to bring to it.  You have the knowledge that – if they are expected, lightly yet with conviction – miracles happen.  And a few miracles are needed here and now, are they not?”

“Yes,” I said, humbly.

So this is where LIME (Life Is Miracles Expected) magic becomes interactive.

Click away NOW if you don’t want to get involved.  

Or is it too late?  Are you already caught up in T’s story?

Ideally, I’d like… every person who reads this blog to put some energy into helping T’s miracles arrive.

Your energy may be in the form of money – however much you’d feel comfortable transforming into energy to help pay for her academy fees.

It may be in the form of reblogging this post, or linking to it on social media, so that it reaches more people, who can also join our creation.

It may be that you will send healing and positive energy to Christian – T’s dad.

Or you may have other wonderful ideas for ways of creating these miracles.

Any money that reaches my PayPal account  from the ‘make a donation’ button below will, you have my word, go into the fund a family friend is setting up for T.  I promise I’ll keep you informed of progress, because  you now have a part in this story.

Thank you for sharing your energy and helping to make this happen.

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