In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the character Horatio exclaims, ‘O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!’
And Hamlet replies, ‘And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’
[Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5, Line 185]
When I have a deadline, Seth will often pop into the family studio and see me rearranging the toy boxes, or curled up with a paperback and a cup of tea, or even wandering out to the kitchen to gather ingredients for baking. The more urgent, the more likely I am to be doing something other than sitting at my computer. Even when I am to be found with my laptop balanced on my belly, invariably I will have three or four tabs to interesting websites open, while my cursor blinks patiently in the background. I have no desk, or even a favorite chair, and I am as likely to work in bed as anywhere else. He sometimes scolds me; he always laughs at me. He knows me by now, but he still doesn’t quite understand how I ever get anything done. I don’t mind his chuckles and sideways looks. I quite like his little reminders that my approach to academic work is different from most.
At school and university, my teachers and classmates also struggled to believe that I ever did anything that resembled worthwhile study or reading. But my results always showed otherwise. This mismatch between what people expect me to do and how I perform has alternately been met with puzzlement, amusement, anger, jealousy, envy, and dismissal. I was fortunate that my parents always let me get on with what I was interested in in whatever way I wanted, providing a willing supply of snacks and comfortable furniture on which to drape myself. Over the years, I have come to accept and embrace what I only used to suspect. A random, haphazard, scattered, non-linear approach to creative and academic work brings out the most effective version of myself. I like a good mix of community and solitude. I get lonely without colleagues, and I lose myself amidst too much noise. After trying out many different work environments, I have finally gathered enough evidence to prove my eclectic patchwork to be by far my most efficient mode in which to function. I also now believe it deep inside, listening to and now honoring the little voice that drew me off the straight and narrow path of schedules and boxes in the first place. Now I know and act as if the best way to be me is to do it my way. Even if it looks a little strange. Even if it leads other people to think me irresponsible, flighty, or unfriendly.
Understanding that the way that I learn and work is difficult, if not impossible, for other people to appreciate, helps me view the world through softer eyes. Changes in my perspective on myself lead to changes on my perspective on everything around me, and vice versa. If my make-up is a little confusing, not entirely straight-forward, how might those around me thrive? Could it be in ways I have never imagined? Could it be through means that to me seem non-productive, lazy, or deviant? This kind of opening and softening makes my experience of the world richer and more joyful. It increases my quota of curiosity and deepens the flexibility of my learning.
How it is that we’ve become so locked in to the idea that there is a one right way for everyone, and for everything? The tiniest encounter with nature, and life itself, proves this to be outrageously untrue. In a mind-boggling diversity of climates and landscapes, living organisms find ways to thrive. Cute little puffins perch on rocks in Icelandic gales; giant squid 13m-long glide along the darkest depths of the ocean; secretary birds, the tallest living raptors, stalk through the veld spying out snakes to stamp with their powerful feet; leaf frogs secret themselves amidst forest debris; arctic terns travel from pole to pole (around 90 000km). There are common threads and patterns, but the stunning intricacy of the overall design is a vivid manifestation of infinite variety.
Right now, with my body ripe with human life, more moon than woman, my thoughts drift often to birth. I have visited all the camps: hospital birth, home birth, natural birth, surgical birth, birth through power, birth through surrender, birth through vagina, birth through abdomen, birth in community, birth alone. The smorgasbord is great, and fitting for such a diverse and divergent world and species. What bothers me is the self-righteousness that hangs about in the air at many of these enclaves. Why on earth would something that worked for you, and your body, and your family, at a particular moment on a particular day become the gospel stone-etched truth for all people everywhere? Instead of remembering that they tell only one story of many, many inhabitants of these camps will brandish their truth as a weapon of propaganda, enlisting those that cross their path as soldiers for their own agenda.
The great big weaving of countless stories into the fabric of truth is a concept that applies to every human condition. From diet and sexual preferences, to work environments, homes, and learning spaces, life is not a rational affair. It cannot be cracked open by reason alone. And it therefore cannot be quantified, reduced, or categorized. This is not to say that judgement has no place. Our ability to discern and judge keeps us safe, helps us navigate the world, and avoid danger. But its application must be nuanced, mindful, and always open to the scene lying right before our senses. You can’t bring any answers. There are no crib notes, or handy multiple choice to memorize. You can only show up, every moment, with as much of yourself, your heart, your mind, and body, as you can muster.
This post was written in exchange for a treatment from the talented Colleen of the Midlands House of Healing. A trait of Colleen’s approach to healing that first appealed to me is the spread and depth of techniques she brings to the massage table. She practices sports massage, ayurvedic massage, and pregnancy massage as well as massage traditions from Sweden, Hawaii, and Polynesia. Her experience and qualification as a reiki master and teacher enable her to clear and channel energy under the philosophy of Japanese Buddhist, Mikao Usui. She has studied counseling, psychotherapy, and child psychology. She holds an international diploma in nutrition, anatomy, and physiology. She uses her psychic and empathetic abilities to reach deeper levels of knowledge. She applies tools such as crystals, gongs, drums, rain-makers, little wooden hammers for meridian clearing, a treasure cave of crystals, hot stones, aromatherapy oils, music, hugs, blankets and cups of tea. Her curiosity, dedication to ongoing learning, and willingness to seek connections has continued to draw me to regular sessions. Such openness to the many wonderful ways we learn about ourselves, and the many levels on which life unfolds, enriches any time spent beneath her hands.
(And yes, to answer your question, I most definitely had deadlines looming while I wrote all of the above, three or four rather tight ones in fact;)
Hello and welcome:) I am a South African artist and mama who believes in mindfulness and living on purpose. I love traveling, reading, yoga, leading our family business, and eating delicious food in beautiful places. And tea. I love tea. Pour yourself a cup and settle in for a read.