Last weekend I woke up with my mind swimming with ideas and confusion. I was wondering where to go next with my work. I often wonder whether my restlessness is creative or destructive. Familiar with myself and my habits I asked the universe for some direction, a sign or guidance. It is how I have learnt to live. Controlling my life failed long ago, listening worked. I call it listening to love, hence you will see love listens in my work very often. I ask the question and walk into life waiting, listening, to see if I can hear the answer, in songs, movies, people, anywhere. Well, I should listen anywhere and everywhere, too often I don’t really listen to anything at all.
So on Sunday I got out of bed with the feeling of queasiness, the aftertaste of cheap and easy thinking. I asked the question and leapt into life. It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting with my dad in the nursing home. He has dementia and was complaining about a pain in his chest. He explained to me that someone had kicked him, that is how his mind made sense of the pain, so he wouldn’t get out of bed. I had plans to get him home, rush around, sit him in some corner with some kids and do my long list of have to do’s. He had plans to lie in bed. So in an involuntary and unexpected way I was invited to stop, sit and be – with him.
He held out his hand and we sat in silence for a few minutes before he asked “How are you?”. I explained I had a busy brain and I wasn’t sure where to go and what to do next with work. I have inherited his brain so I knew even if he couldn’t talk sensibly he would understand. He nodded then talked about how he was leaving, going to live in the bush, which he was grateful for, with Aboriginal people, who I knew he has always admired and believed he was related to. Dad is always leaving, the story started days after he moved into the nursing home, it can make me cry. Clearly it his only escape, his imagined return to his home, the home of his mother Mary Bryant and every memory that he can find, long forgotten is the home I knew.
It wasn’t long before he asked again “How are you?”. I repeated my uninspiring, unhopeful tale. Dad repeated that he would be leaving, that he was going back to the bush. Then he stopped looked at me, lovingly, staring straight into my eyes and with a mind as crisp as a fresh stalk of celery said to me;
“Mary the only thing that matters is that you believe in yourself”.
I wasn’t prepared for the words, the love, the truth, the simple instruction. Believe in myself. The words made me cry. He mumbled on with words that made no sense at all, then in the patches of green grass between forest of confusion, he added “You need to be creative and take some risks”. As he spoke, the light broke through the clouds like a gorgeous rainbow and I realised I was listening to love. That love was asking me to believe in myself and take a risk and in that place, my confusion settled into a calm sea of thoughts.
In the nursing home where I didn’t want to be, sitting on the edge of a strangers’ chair (possibly, a not so hygienic chair), a place as unlikely as the stable in Bethlehem, my question was being answered. I realised I was listening to love. That love was asking me to believe in myself and take a risk. Dad loved the meaning of things, yep a curious busy mind, he would add, before dementia, the word believe, comes from two words and can be translated to - be in love.
It is gorgeous and beautiful suggestion. A message for you and me. Love speaks like that, it is generous and inspiring, comforting and instructive. So take the words to your own heart today.
Be in love with who you are. Take risks and be creative.
Dad would want that for you too.
Love and blessings Mary
Dad and I last week in Bethlehem … or a nursing home and a song because everyone needs a song.