One of the most effective pieces of advice I’ve encountered in recent years has been from the late Sir Paul Callaghan. A friend who knew him well said that one of the best things you could say about Sir Paul was that he was the most Paul Callaghan he could be. His words struck a deep chord. We live in turbulent times and many people I know are challenged by how to find their purpose, be of service and make the world a better place. I whole heartedly believe that one of the best things you can do, and be, is the most you.
At forty, I’ve had my fair share of life experience. But in many respects I’ve done what the system expected. Achieved well at school, went onto university, followed a career path, at least for a while…But this path does not necessarily, in fact often doesn’t, allow much room for your true, full self to step out of the wings and onto the stage. My conscious journey in this respect began with the decision to explore a business idea, reduce my paid working hours and follow my nose. My nose hasn’t led me in a particularly linear direction I have to say. I’ve had to stop and have conversations with it occasionally, asking if it knows where it’s going. Sometimes it doesn’t, instead quietly it asks me to trust. Have faith. Have fun. Become increasingly comfortable with the unknown.
Chiaroscuro is an art term referring to the use of light and dark to achieve a heightened illusion of depth. If I imagine a painting of myself, being the most Tink I can be means exploring not just how light is used, but dark. What lies in the shadow, where is the contrast.
I’ve spent a good part of today feeling out of sorts. There were moments in which I wasn’t sure whether I felt weepy or snappy. I sat in a meeting this afternoon and there was too much information. I wanted to go home and run along the beach in the howling wind. Or lie in a warm bath. Or eat dark chocolate. Or do all three.
The actual writing part 1 of the story of Frank was remarkably effortless, the words flowed, but its been a long time in the making. The hitting the publish button was the hard part. Reaching out with this stuff still doesn’t come easily. And the effort of it has left me depleted. In addition, I then spent yesterday morning facilitating the handover from one of Mum’s new carers to another. I’m told that this is the hardest stage of dementia. Mum knows something is seriously wrong. She wants to know what we can do to fix it. I have to gently tell her that we can’t.
Becoming the most Tink I can be also means become familiar with who I am, and how I am, when I’m out of balance. When I’m tired, stretched to thin, depleted. The shadow side of the luminous me is the one inclined to retreat, feel overwhelmed with responsibility, alone, under-resourced. If I’m in my element connecting, this part of me wants to disconnect. This journey of figuring out how I can be the most me I can be is learning that sometimes when I’m in this space, the very best thing I can do is the last thing I feel like doing – connect, reach out. But sometimes, what is most nourishing are the things I really want to do. Have a glass of red wine and dark chocolate. Soak in bath. Curl my toes into sand. Watch a movie and escape.
But I don’t always know. I don’t always get it right and redress the balance. Sometimes I get it wrong. I snap. And snarl a little. And weep, sometimes a lot. And that’s okay too.
“There is strong shadow where there is much light.” Johann, Wolfgang von Goethe.
In the wake of posting part 1 of this story, I ‘ve received some lovely feedback and engaged in thought-provoking conversations. I concluded one email to a friend with the words below and tonight they seem fitting words with which to conclude…
“…in the face of Mum’s deterioration and climate change etc etc etc to convince me of how much I want to live my life with light and joy and love and belly-aching laughter. To be kind to animals, play with children, stop and have conversations with old people. Be silly. Be brave. Be vulnerable. The hardest part at the moment with Mum is seeing her aware of how much she has f….. up. So much regret. So many opportunities not taken, possibilities not explored. One of the best things I can do to help her story seem less of a tragedy is being the most me, the most Tink, I can be.”
How can you be more fully you? What are those facets of yourself you’ve yet to explore, step into, reveal? Who are you, and how are you, when you’re out of balance? What is the shadow that creates light?… Food for thought I hope.