What is my “legacy”?

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I used to believe that legacies were about children and inheritance of heirlooms and antique furniture. I used to believe legacies were for the rich and famous like Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg. I used to believe a lot of things that I don’t anymore, am I jaded, more experienced, older, maturer? I scoff whilst writing this in a cynical inwardly way. Like only I understand the joke, only my inner voice understands what that means; or inner child, as the psychologists or mindfulness community might say.

I travelled abroad recently and had this notion to bring my books, my journals and downloaded a few podcasts to really keep my mind active and engaged intellectually. (I scoff again) Did I read any of them, no. I stayed present to the moment, had pockets of beautiful conversations with some inspiring individuals and exercised hard, well hard for me. Whilst away I believed I would be discovering all these different paths of who I was (existential questioning we all do), what was I to learn on this solo travel. So much of what I learned was seeping its way through upon my return home and not abroad at all. I realised many things about myself, I don’t like the cold, I acclimatise really quickly to the exotic weather (yes, I have many continents in my blood line), I love travelling and it was freeing to do it alone. #yesmyboyfriendapproved and #noididntneedhisapproval
What I realised is that I had taken on the weight and woes of my family and I was discovering who I was in the process. A journey that will never end until my last breath.

So, back to legacies, I started working with the Ben Kinsella Trust and Head Held High just before Christmas on a programme called ‘The Best You’.
Sometimes, I believe, in life we have these serendipitous moments which we either listen to or ignore; what I call the ‘universal alignments’. I’ve been turning the volume low for the last few years without trusting the universe to let things happen. (Now, I know that might sound a bit whacko but most people who know me, knows that I am spiritual). When others come first before your needs, it takes a life changing experience to allow you the time to re-assess your needs are a priority and that is not selfish!

So, ‘The Best You’ programme is motivational for teenagers to get them thinking about their futures, how they can make different choices to protect themselves and to discuss the prevalent rise of knife crime. I worked with an amazing woman, Tash, who has been doing this work for six years and it really shows. There are so many moments in my life where I feel so damn lucky to meet people who not only inspire me right to my core but also I feel so privilege to see how committed, passionate and caring they are in their work, and Tash is one of them.
There’s no time for ego, this isn’t about us, this is about them! I have cried more over this programme and felt so deeply from my soul, than I ever have in crying out of sadness or anger.

The programme started in January, all the teenagers in the group knew people who had  been affected by knife crime or they themselves had been affected by knife crime. The programme had seven teenagers take part, lasted for six weeks, took place in their school with a visit to the Ben Kinsella exhibition.

Was I affected? Yes, every week I went into the classroom, and then onto my full-time job. On my second week, I sent a text to Tash to say how much respect and admiration I had for her knowing how long she had done this work for. I then asked my work colleague if I could have a hug. I cried on my colleague’s shoulder and felt two things “hope” and “progress”. I could see the cogs starting to turn, the pennies dropping, the trickle of change, you could feel the shift in the room when someone had been honest and vulnerable. Every week everyone came, they didn’t have to participate, they didn’t have to attend, the class wasn’t compulsory but every week we saw the same faces and kept reminding them of the reasons we were there. We were there for them, to open their eyes to who they could be, accepting responsibility for their choices, having the opportunities to change their responses to situations.
I felt very much this was a learning experience for me too, what was I doing to be the best person in my life, for my partner, for my family and friends; applying those things that I was saying was tough. I learned things from my friends which questioned who I was in the friendship and staying open and receptive is one of the hardest parts of being human; to not judge and to not be offended.

Today, in our last session together, I was sad that I was not going to be there next week. One of the lads said “why was the programme not going on for longer?” and I felt Tash and I had done our job in that they could see the benefit of this type of work. I felt like all those podcasts I had listened to where they ask the interviewee “what advice would you give your younger self”, I felt like this was my opportunity, I had had six weeks to impart my wisdom, life experience and emotional maturity but I couldn’t find the words and I’m more “story-teller” than “short and concise” type of person. How can you know what to say that relates to the work you are doing, how can you say all the things you wish you could say without the abbreviations and use all the expletives the schools deny you of. How can we make a change in the short one and half hour class that we get?

When you work with someone who gives you the space to lead part of the session and lets you run with a personal experience, all I can say is today was a heart opener. I shared something that even some of my close friends don’t even know about but laying one’s heart out there is not weak, it’s strength in being able to be vulnerable and open. Brene Brown’s Ted Talk covers this on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. I left the space like I always have with two words in my mind and heart, ‘Hope’ and ‘Progress’.

There’s no selfies or “let’s keep in touch” but there were “thank yous” and a hug. Priceless! I’d been thinking all week what my parting words would be and this was them “I want to meet you in the street in 4-5 years time, shake your hand and hear you tell me what you have been doing. I don’t want to see you on the newspaper because you’ve become a victim”.  I am sad not to be going in next week and shaking each one of their hands and saying hello. I am sad that six weeks doesn’t feel like enough time but I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them, to be inspired by them and to set goals for myself because of them.

So, I come back to legacies, is this my legacy or theirs? I think it’s our legacies that we create and hope we pass on. I have hope in the future of the next generation.

Thank you Ben Kinsella Trust, thank you to Head Held High and to Patrice.

 

‘The Good Enough Mother’

With a background in acting everything I write has music to it, or rather in my head as I write. Cancion De La Noche

I love reading and I don’t ever read enough but there always comes a time when perusing a book from someone you know can make reading that bit more special.  ‘The Good Enough Mother’  was certainly a piece I was looking forward to reading as I hadn’t spoken to the writer, Anoushka Beazley for some years; and was just genuinely excited to see someone who I had crossed paths with doing extremely well!  I think sometimes, the worry is that someone will read/see your creative output and dislike it. But we put ourselves out there, sometimes with our hearts on our sleeves and not only take risks but hope to connect with the reader in some aspect.

The story opens with Drea who becomes a single, non biological parent to Ava over night due to her Teacher boyfriend who runs off with his Research Assistant to live in France. Drea’s character is funny, dark, sarcastic and shows the sad complexities of humanity that reside in all of us. Why did I love this novel, well firstly I could hear Anoushka’s voice, and even though I hadn’t seen or spoken to Anoushka, it was great to hear her voice in Drea. Secondly, the story of Drea has so much heart and made me seriously think of ‘Motherhood’.

I lost my Mum several years ago and it’s still difficult to know she is not here anymore, that I can’t take her shopping, meet up in a coffee shop, have family get togethers, or simply share my life with her. I contemplate whether I will be a ‘Mum’, ‘Mummy’ or ‘Mother one day, to my kids or someone else’s. Do I want to be a Mum? I ask myself “why this has not physicalised?” I blame the notion of not meeting the man who has wanted to have this “lifestyle” with me, but is this fair?  Did I meet him but not clarify my needs? I always said “never say never to kids” when someone asked me, but then some how the cycle of men in my life that I attracted were the guys who could never commit, disliked children maybe because they hadn’t grown up themselves or possess the required emotional maturity,  or had kids already and didn’t want anymore.

As with Drea’s story I could associate with other issues that perhaps prevent us as in ‘I’ from making those clear decisions. Maybe it was never high up on my priority list, maybe I thought it would happen naturally, maybe I didn’t think I would be a good Mum  or be any good at being tied down and didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of my parents. So, “fear” prevented me? Maybe because my parents were so adamant on me having a career and in doing so gravitated towards people who wanted to take rather than share. Maybe my needs became second to their needs?

With main characters in novels, conversations happen in their head which only the audience can hear and identify with. When I started this post I was debating on whether to call it “Conversations in my Head” partly because we all have them and I do try to stem the demonic ones; but this is about how “The Good Enough Mother” stirred emotions and thoughts I have had all of my life. Maybe because my biological clock is ticking, maybe it has ticked? Oh look, there’s one more thing I cannot add to the bucket list but if I could, would I? Probably yes, most definitely yes if there was someone who wanted this with me. But unwittingly I chose and choose the men who do not and that is one of the most painful decisions I live with daily.

Drea’s internal dialogue is utterly insightful, I guess this is why I connect with her. There are reflective moments that made me feel completely broken, the way we compartmentalise so much until we are forced to confront our issues. The mirrored moment is never necessarily with a person or situation but pages in a book, a scene in a film, even down to the most boring of chores can have you crying because something you read in a novel made you think. Denying how we truly feel about our circumstances and who we are, and whom with we can be ourselves. Sometimes, being alone is preferable than being around people who constantly judge you, analyse you or your situation, who offer advice when it’s not needed or asked for – “The fixers”.

Drea deals with her problems internally, and I wonder if this is a symptom of modern life. We feel guilty for sharing our problems, we consider it “dumping”.  We feel a failure if a relationship has broken down, there’s always blame. We feel shame for not being what Society says we should be, in a relationship that leads to marriage, children, financial and domestic security. There’s nothing wrong with wanting them but there’s equally nothing wrong without having them.

The fear is not loneliness or am I settling for second best or wondering if I had made different choices would I be somewhere else? The thoughts are what if there is someone out there who wants to live the life I want to live, should I keep searching? Maybe I do want to be a Mum? Maybe I just want security because I never had it as a child or growing up? Maybe being a Mum will fill the loss of not having one? Maybe I still don’t know and it’s okay to not know especially if you’ve been through the “I thought I’d met the one” phase and they turn out not to be.

Drea wants to be provide for Ava and though there are lots of ways she doesn’t see, in so many ways she does. She’s responsible, she cares, she admits to not being the ‘typical’ parent that gets stuck in with PTA or makes friends with other mothers for the sake of school. But there is something in Ava’s need to belong and be part of something that also resonates with me. Maybe it’s being a Mother, maybe it’s to say I did well, maybe because there is nothing left of me after I have gone and maybe that’s they way it is and should be. Why does their need to be a legacy of Maria Thomas? There doesn’t.

‘The Good Enough Mother’ is definitely about the human condition and the complexities of how our minds work. The trauma of childhood, the confusion within ourselves by not really knowing sometimes who we really are and we come from, our parents/families influence on our lives or non-existent parents/families in our lives. It all seems to boil down to who am I? Who I am can be anything I want it to be, how I live and whom I live it with is my choice as long as I am happy why should it matter? Who put the time clock in my body and do I have to listen to them? Listening to the conversations in my head can be harmful or amazing, and everyday I have to consciously choose to listen to the voice that keeps me going.

Thank you Anoushka, if ever I do become a Mum, I hope I remember like Drea, it’s okay  to fall as long as I remember to pick myself up and carry on.