Category Archives: Perception

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes

One thing I know journaling is excellent for is considering other people’s perspectives and points of view. Something about our inner voice always guides us towards empathy and compassion if we listen carefully enough. There is simply nowhere to hide once we follow our journaling practice.

But we can still have blind spots borne out of ignorance. Our inner voice has little to say about things it hasn’t ever experienced. Sometimes we have to push ourselves a little bit further to fully understand what others experience.

This is what I did last week at Diane Torr’s Be a Man for the Day workshop.

I spent the day with six other women writers, none of whom I had met before. We shared our experiences of men and gender. We talked about far more than just cross-dressing. It was an exercise in poetry; in trying to understand male attitudes and behaviours by literally growing a beard – or at least sticking one on –  and wearing the trousers, all for the sake of our writing and our understanding.

Chris Stone

It was revelatory. And strangely taught me more about myself as a woman.

I learned how much I smile as a woman. And laugh. How much I repeat myself in a bid to be heard and acknowledged, or make the right sounds and gestures to ensure others feel comfortable.

In contrast as a ‘man’ all I had to do was own the space I was occupying in order to have an impact. No smiling. No unnecessary chit chat. Certainly no thought for anyone else’s comfort but my own. It felt dour. Aggressive at times.

By the end of the day we had a new-found compassion for men. A new appreciation about the emotional restrictions many men experience, and how hard it must be to forge friendships and meaningful relationships with each other.

The man I became is called Chris Stone. That’s him in the pic. I haven’t yet invited his voice into my journal. Feels a bit scary. But I’m sure it will be fascinating.

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What’s a holiday for?

Visiting new places, relaxing in the sun, travelling away from home, experiencing something unusual, changing the routine, not working, having fun, reflecting, recharging the batteries…

These are all activities I associate with a holiday, whose meaning derives from the Old English Haligdaeg – that is, Holy Day.

Historically holidays have been associated with a religious festivity, a chance to celebrate or commemorate with fellow believers. These days I like to think of holidays as whole-days – a chance to restore ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually.

So in this summer of our enforced holiday cancellation it has been necessary to figure out a different way of spending our whole-days, so that we didn’t miss out on the holiday feeling.

Cooking lovely food, catching up with friends, going on day trips (not terribly easy when manoeuvring a 6ft 2″ broken-legged boy in a wheelchair), spending time in the garden, bee and butterfly watching, being internet-free, watching movies, playing Wii games, going swimming, playing golf, browsing in local shops, going out for lunch, enjoying afternoon tea and attending village events – these have been the features and activities of our unexpected stay-cation.

Butterfly3

And I have to say something surprising has happened. My batteries are recharged, I have eaten well, slept well, laughed with my kids, discovered new places to eat, swim and shop locally, and experienced real contentment and satisfaction in my home and garden.

It turns out that the holiday that never was has been one of the best ever.

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What is art?

I’ve been reading the biography of Marion Milner, and I have been fascinated by some of her observations about art and writing and awareness.

So I was very excited to do a little experiment of my own on my family trip to Paris this weekend.

We hadn’t especially planned to visit the Louvre, I favoured the Musee d’Orsay instead, but when my son expressed an interest in going to see the Mona Lisa, that’s where we decided to head. And I with my resolution to widen my awareness, to allow my attention to be drawn rather than thinking hard about what should be drawing it. For I had learned, whether from Milner or elsewhere, that true art has the power to move us, to make something happen to our inner reality, to make us stop and take notice.

However our first stop was the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre – a perfect place to begin to get a feel for the city – with accordion music in green leafy squares and locals sipping on cool glasses of pale pink wine or tiny cups of treacly espresso.

And there, just beyond La Place du Tertre, sits La Biscuiterie de Montmartre, with the most astonishing of window displays.

Macaroons

Macaroons. With their pastel glossiness, eye-catching arrangement and tempting packages. Heart-stoppingly pretty, and telling of a craft and a dedication generations old.

So there it happened. My attention was drawn, quite accidentally, quite delightfully. By a plate of macaroons. Was this art?

Perhaps. The dusty works of the Louvre had to work doubly hard after this.

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