There are certain times in our lives when we reach a crossroads, more often than not precipitated by having to deal with hard reality. And there’s nothing quite like the hard reality of death to cause the ground beneath our feet to tilt and for us stumble head first into the BIG issues. 15 years ago I faced my own mortality when I developed peritonitis after an operation. That same year I had a front row seat at my father’s death and the 20 year old son of a close family friend died. I wrote about this in Windmills of your Mind so suffice to say that it was a life-changing experience. Facing death tends to focus one’s attention on issues like the meaning of life and one’s purpose in the grand scheme of thing. I had, over the years, developed an ability to block out the negative – a keep calm and carry on sort of approach. But the deaths of loved ones and becoming aware of my own mortality made me realise that I wanted to live a more meaningful life, to be more engaged and not simply go through the motions.
Not long after our family’s annus horribilis, I attended a course based on the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book opened my eyes to the possibility of living a more creative life. Prior to this I often felt that I was doing and being what I thought I should because I didn’t have the confidence to express what I wanted. There have been other books and authors who have helped along the way but Julia Cameron got the ball rolling and helped me to start putting into motion a plan that would eventually lead me here, doing what I love and feeling fairly fulfilled (not fully fulfilled because I still procrastinate terribly, drink too much and blob out in front of the telly!).
The course was run by a lovely woman, Iona, who also did readings based on the idea of colour mirrors – The system of “Colour Mirrors uses potent and powerful coloured oils and essences to help you understand your life, your patterns of behaviour and your relationships. Colour can bring clarity into every aspect of your life: relationships, jobs, careers, healing, health issues, energy blocks, gifts and potential, spiritual connection and personal growth”. I went for a session with her (because I thought I should!) but I was sceptical about the process and dismissed it as all too new agey for me. Recently however, when I was moving personal stuff into my sanctuary, I came across a copy of Iona’s notes (and yes, I’m aware of the irony that I’ve hung onto it, despite my cynicism). Among other observations, she writes that I have a strong feeling for the community and that this is my life purpose. She also comments that I had to learn to trust myself which I now, with hindsight, see as quite pertinent.
Let me take a step back here – I got married when I was 20 years old to Peter, who was 10 years my senior. He had the most intriguing way of seeing the world and introduced me to wonderful, exciting and tough life experiences. I had always known that I wanted to live a different life, I just wasn’t able to articulate what that meant other than in terms of what I didn’t want, which a life of domesticity and convention. Peter offered a different life but it was his life that I stepped into and I’ve always believed that, because I was so young, I never quite developed fully as an individual with my own ideas. I’m just grateful that Peter was such a generous and enlightened mentor.
When I moved to the farm 7 years ago I was ready to start living on my terms, I just had to find them. I stepped out of my comfort zone and basically started to trust myself. I admit it all became a little “me, me, me” but that was what I needed to become my own person. It was a few years before I got involved with the Curry’s Post Educational Trust and, at first, I again questioned whether this was something that I wanted to do or something that I thought I ought to do. Was it white guilt; did I feel an obligation to give back because of my privilege? I was reluctant to commit to something unless it was what I really wanted to do. As callous as it may sound, I don’t want to do good just because I think I should.
What I’ve come to realise though is that I get a similar sort of satisfaction from being involved in community work as I did from being a mother. As the media master of self help, Dr Phil, once said, “No one does anything unless they get something out of it” or words to that effect. Although I don’t enjoy the fundraising side of my work for the Trust (meeting deadlines, writing proposals and reports and keeping records – ugh, I hate admin), it is hugely satisfying when a budget is approved. But what I find most fulfilling is helping others grow and writing this post has been an eye-opener for me because it’s dawned on me that I’ve come full circle. Instead of heading off in other directions in my quest to be my own person, I’ve come back to my roots as it were and I realise that I’ve always followed my interests, I just wasn’t paying attention.
I started my working life as a pre-primary school teacher, became a volunteer teacher at a rural primary school in Zululand, worked for a non-profit educational organisation as a resource centre co-ordinator, was principal of an educare centre, and developed training outreach programmes for teachers and community-based organisations. I wrote about this in Gimme Hope Joanna. Education and community outreach have always been important to me.
With all that said, I’ve finally come to the point of this post! I’m going to create a regular post called If I Ruled The World for stories about the Trust, the school, the outreach programme and anything else related to education and community development. Sometimes you just have to put stuff out there in the hope that it does actually make a difference. Thanks for reading.
If I ruled the world
Every day would be the first day of spring
Every heart would have a new song to sing
And we’d sing of the joy every morning would bring
If I ruled the world
Every man would be as free as a bird
Every voice would be a voice to be heard
Take my word we would treasure each day that occurred
My world would be a beautiful place
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams
My world would wear a smile on its face
Like the man in the moon has when the moon beams
If I ruled the world
Every man would say the world was his friend
There’d be happiness that no man could end
No my friend, not if I ruled the world
Every head would be held up high
There’d be sunshine in everyone’s sky
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world