Chances are, if you are an adult, then you are many things now that you did not have to be as a kid.
Perhaps you got to be whatever you dreamed about becoming when you were growing up. The pilot, the farmer, the nurse, the hairdresser, the explorer, the writer, the teacher, the inventor.
Perhaps too you have found joy in sisterhood, being an adult son or daughter, as a parent yourself.
Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to find something in life that you are good at, that brings you joy and this too has gifted you with a circle of friends and achievements.
There are times though, just like when you were a kid, when no one cares much about these things. Don’t get me wrong – they care about you. They love you – the way an infant is loved just by being in the world. The way a 4 year old in a twirly dress is already a dancer. The way a 6 year old with a set of paints over the table (and floor), is already an artist, and the kid with scrawled notes of ideas is a writer. The way a 12 year old daydreamer, experimenter, risk-taker is already a scientist. The way a stick of rock from the beach can be wrapped in shiny paper and made into hundreds of brightly coloured patterns, screaming ‘pick me’, ‘love me’, ‘choose me’ but what really matters is where you are when you eat this rock, and who is next to you on the sand as you taste it. What really counts is when things break, seeing what is written at the centre? What is in the very core of us when all the outer layers are stripped back?
This is one of the reasons why I especially love old friends. The ones who loved me before. Before exam results, before courses and training, before first jobs and tenth jobs. Before career changes and promotions, before redundancies and retirement. Before moving from jobs we love for the sake of our kids, or to take care of elderly relatives. Before the responsibilities and professional facades. Before our interests and passions became gloatable. Because as kids we did them anyway whether someone was watching or not, without having to track it and post it in order to validate ourselves.
When we just did it. Who we are when we are not…
Who are we when we can no longer…
In Mo Willams series of Elephant and Piggie books there is a scene where one asks the other
‘what is pretending?’
‘pretending is when you go out and act like something you are not’
‘wow, and you can just do that? you can just go out and act like something you are not?’
‘sure. everyone pretends.’
‘even grown up people?’
‘all the time’.
At the hospital bed I often ask what is most important to a person. The dialogue almost never gets round to thier career. They almost never tell me. It’s almost never what’s most important. Often times, it has gone now anyway. Who they are, as is, with fewer abilities than ever. Who are they now? What is left which is of utmost value? What remains is who they truly are.
It has been said ‘I am’ is a complete sentence.
There is not much truer than this.
I recall a way back when my son had heard about a certain US President and he asked ‘what’s so bad about him?’ I explained, ‘well you know those values you’ve been learning about in school like kindness, respect, care for the earth, honesty?’ ‘Yes’ he says. ‘Well he doesn’t have any of those’ I replied. Because you can see values like this, they are self evident and pervade everywhere and are not choosy about where they are distributed. They are not achieved through study or exams or by being particularly clever or gifted or rich. You cannot create a portfolio as such because they are only evidenced in lives touched by them. And this can only be done day by day. There is no five year plan for kindness. You can only be kind now, or not. In which case we may have to call upon that other more elusive value of forgiveness, for one another, and for ourselves. This will get us through. Values are our make-up of being, the way of living. Whatever is left when it is only living we can do. What was there right at the start, all that innate, innocent goodness. What will be left at the end.
In the end.
Where our treasure is.
Right at our core.
Where our heart is.