“Authenticity” is the word du jour. It is used in a wide variety of contexts to mean “honest” or “non-artificial”, or something like “eschewing glamour”, “homely” or “rustic”.
I use it here on this blog too, and particularly in relation to women. When I’m using it, I mean something very different to “honest” or any of the other popular meanings.
I mean something that doesn’t exist.
It’s almost a year (impossible!) since I went to the Vipassana meditation retreat. Ten days of living like a monk, rising at 4am, 14 hours of meditating each day, chants in ancient tongues lasting hours, the earth in midwinter.
It’s not often discussed the phenomenon of ingratitude, and yet it’s a common experience.
Every parent knows it intimately, and several of the leaders I interviewed last year spoke of the shock and bewilderment of experiencing it. Here were people giving everything they had to some cause – selling their assets, going without salaries, pouring in hour after hour of their time – only to have one or more people levy some accusation such as manipulation, dishonesty or hypocrisy Continue reading
Dedicated to A
Every blogger knows this blogging business is not as straightforward as it looks. We’re often writing into our fears and concerns. And unlike writing something that will be published “someday” if we’re lucky, like a book or article, our potential audience when blogging is just an hour or so away.
Earns his living
An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
No one travels
Along this way but I,
This autumn evening.
~ Selection of haiku by Matsuo Bashō (Japanese, 1644-1694) and Kobayashi Issa (Japanese, 1763-1827)
Image: photo of Clinamen, a work by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
I’ve been working on the transcript of a leader in an interview talking about the real levers of communication. The topic that struck me from the transcript is her discussion of the phenomenon of empathy, and the distinction between empathy and sympathy.
It had me recall one of the truly great conversations I’ve experienced which was all about empathy.
… cunning as housewives, each eyed –
as if at a corner butcher – the other’s buttock.
~ Eavan Boland, The Famine Road
In 1845, Ireland had been ruled by Britain for more than 40 years. It was a country of around 8 million people, 80% of whom were Catholic. Only a quarter of the population could read and write, and life expectancy was among the lowest in Europe, men and women living not much above 40.
I’m growing a new business at present and want to attract new clients. In my latest ploy to avoid doing the single most effective thing in winning new business – getting on the telephone and asking friends and associates for their business – I cunningly thought of consulting a friend who has several businesses and asking him for advice.
“Who knows?” I thought, “Maybe there’s a miraculous new pain-free way of winning business I don’t know about.”
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
It’s difficult for men to appreciate the extent to which the imperative to be perfect, to be good, to get things right, rules womens’ lives. It’s difficult for men because it’s difficult for women.
Occasionally, a woman, here and there, will get a glimpse of its effect on her life, and then five minutes later, unconsciousness takes over again, and soon enough, she’s squirming at the thought of a boo-boo she made in an email, or the fact she didn’t remember so-and-so’s name or didn’t ask about their recent operation.
Lorna Lee has achieved something unusual in her first non-fiction book. She has taken the material of her life, a life that will be recognisable to many readers, and made of it both a poignant coming-of-age tale and a vigorous thriller.
How Was I Supposed to Know? The Adventures of a Girl Whose Name Means Lost is the story of her childhood growing up in a trailer in rural New York State after the mysterious disappearance of her father; through marriage, motherhood, academic success and illness, and a marvellous second chance.
An accomplished academic writer, Lee’s ease and authority on the printed page transfers readily to the world of non-fiction. Her voice – comic, poignant, interrogative – handles the often-challenging material with a rare assurance. And she pulls no punches.
There comes a time in every man’s life when he stops laughing and starts to grind under the yoke of contemporary pressures. In this case, a wife, four children, a dog called Fred Flora McDonald, a cat called Kangaroo, Mr Heath, Mr Wilson, the Liberal Party, the Department of Inland Revenue, the breathalyser, etc. — (etc. being the worst) — they have all brought me to an impasse where I decided the only way to save my soul was to cleanse it with some serious verse which would take the police off my back and stop them searching me for funny poems.
“My life was at stake, literally, and I lived accordingly,” she said. “Who I was during that time, and what I accomplished, is someone I want to be again.”
The woman was speaking about her experience of cancer some years ago and who she’d been when the stakes were high, and who she’d been recently when the stakes were no longer high. She talked about the impact in the workplace.
Once upon a time, a woman went to sleep and dreamt she held a baby in her arms. The baby was a shape-shifter. Sometimes, it was indeed a round sausage of a baby, then it was the woman’s childhood dog, and still then, her childhood kitten, Candy.