serenity …. satisfaction …. softness …. sparkle …. simplicity …. sixty ….


I had always considered turning sixty would be a defining moment in my life. I believed I would be at one with myself, comfortable and secure in my place in the world, calm and at peace. Two years ago, when my whole world turned upside down, I questioned whether that would ever be possible. Previously I wrote of seeing my life as a tree passing through seasons. After my youth of spring and the happy summer of motherhood, in the autumn of my life I felt my tree had been cut down and I had plunged into an early winter of despair.

However, after some time, I realised that the roots of my tree (family) and my trunk (experience) had not been destroyed. Moreover, I was growing new branches (friendships and opportunities) and I had managed to save some seeds from my younger years. Then as I saw green sprouting all around me, I realised I had reached a new spring, and some of those saved seeds I had already planted and they were beginning to grow.

These are the seeds that I saved and this is where they have come from:

  • Kindness: Although living a hard life herself, bringing up nine children through two world wars and the depression, my grandmother always knew someone older or sicker or more lonely who needed her help. My grandmother taught me kindness.
  • Pride: My father did not see me graduate or marry yet his look of pride in me, whenever I did anything of value, is imprinted in my memory.
  • Laughter: One of my uncles, taken from us too young, filled our family gatherings with fun and laughter.
  • Serenity. My aunt who died of cancer at age 33 was always serene and calm.
  • Boldness: My cousin nearest to me in age was killed in a car accident on his 21st birthday. He was daring. I was cautious. I still hear his voice ‘go on, you can do it’ that urges me on to begin things I am afraid to try.
  • Courage and resilience: My mother lost her mother, sister, husband, an aunt, two brothers, two friends, and two nephews over an eight year period. Widowed at 47, she worked for the next twenty years in order to educate my two younger brothers and provide for her own retirement. She never complained and has been the rock of support for everyone else in our large extended family.
  • Fairness, Standing up for others: When I was about ten a friend of mine taunted a disabled girl in front of me and I said nothing. When my mother found out she said to me “if someone ridicules someone less fortunate and you do not defend them, it is as if you said the words yourself”. My mother taught me to stand up for fairness.
  • Community: My mother and father were community minded people.
  • Wisdom, tenacity, endurance, gratitude, hope and optimism:  from my mother
    (my mother is 87 after-all, and she keeps throwing me more and more seeds)
  • Family and loyalty: As well as sharing happy times, my large extended family and close friends continually support me and each other, no matter what.
  • Belief in me: My sister and best friend have shown an unswerving belief in me
  • Parental love: I had a strong belief as a mother of not only doing things for my children, but also doing things with my children; coupled with family togetherness.
  • Patience, humility: My four beautiful children have taught me patience and humility.
  • Justice, Free Speech, Humanitarianism, Ethical Science, Protection of the Environment: My whole family including all my children have lived by these beliefs and have spoken up  for these as essential elements in a free compassionate society.

So how do I feel my life is for me at sixty?

A new spring. A new beginning. A new chance. A new opportunity.
I will begin by continuing to plant those seeds I have listed and keep nurturing them into the future. .

Image courtesy[FredericoStevanin]/

Peace, fairness and divorce

“Peace involves inevitable righteousness, justice, wholesomeness, fullness of life, participation in decision making, goodness, laughter, joy, compassion, sharing and reconciliation. “ Desmond Tutu

ID-100129604In a recent post, I listed resources I felt I needed in order to move forward. I left out peace. When I read Desmond Tutu on peace in the quote above, I realised I was trying to race to joy, fulfillment and reconciliation without addressing justice. My last post outlined my struggle between justice (fairness) and mercy (forgiveness/compassion). Nowhere has that been more apparent than in the ending of my marriage.

I considered myself an equal partner in marriage right up to the moment my husband said he was leaving. In that instant he became judge, jury and executioner. I became the victim who was denied just reward, denied a fair trial, and who received punishment. My ‘punishment’ included an emotional crisis, a legal and financial mess (together with the burden of sorting it out), and an uncertain future.

When you become a victim, you can either stay there and become bitter, or you can work through things to get to a better place. This may mean moving forward, taking corrective action, or simply letting some things go.

Just reward (my marriage)

See the picture of the girl plucking grapes from the vine? That is the child within me, believing if I became well educated, if I worked hard, if I sowed the seeds of love and care with my partner; then I would reap rewards. For a long time, I felt I was denied my just reward. I was denied my time in the sunshine, with my partner of forty years caring for each other, with a comfortably secure retirement.

I have now let that go by looking kindly towards a different, yet exciting future for me.

Turning ‘punishment’ into ‘opportunity’ (my divorce)

ID-100200640I was thrust into the horrors of grief/trauma and the overwhelming burden of our financial disentanglement processes.  Whilst I felt otherwise for a long time, I believe handling this with grace and dignity has become a signature strength of mine which will serve me well in the future. I have become a stronger better person for what happened and how I handled this unexpected “opportunity” for personal growth.

Compassion (my life)

In keeping with the topic at hand (peace), I had to resolve within me my attitude towards my partner of forty years, the father of my children. Deep inside I am a caring person unable to intentionally hurt anyone. When I am wronged, although harder, I keep acting on that deep-seated value. That is, no matter what cruelty is shown to me, I cannot go against my own values by being cruel back. Therefore relatively early, I allowed myself to forgive my husband, and let go of any need for revenge. I continued showing him respect.

I believe I have acted by my own values of forgiveness and compassion.


Big failure.

Fair trial (the decision)

When your partner of forty years leaves you suddenly with no discussion, to begin with you believe that somehow you deserved it. You think there must have been something that you did or did not do to warrant that action.

Now I believe this: regardless of any issues that did or did not exist in our marriage, fairness would have allowed me equal participation in the decision, fairness would have allowed me some discussion, fairness would have allowed our marriage to resolve or dissolve on its own merits before he became entangled in another relationship.

I have let forgiveness, compassion and being “nice” overrun that need of fairness to me. In the over two years since separation, I have never expressed to him my feelings on our marriage’s end, or the manner in which it ended. By showing compassion to him, yet falling silent on my own feelings, I may have allowed him to think that I felt his actions were fair and reasonable.

Whilst I cannot undo what was done, I can begin to speak up for myself. I can find the courage to say “I too deserve fairness, consideration, compassion and respect.”



Thanks to Louise, x2, Jolyn and coastalmom for recent posts and comments on this topic. You have helped enormously.

Justice versus Mercy – a clash of values

My message to those of you involved in this battle of brother against brother is this: take your guns, your knives, and your pangas, and throw them into the sea! Nelson Mandela.


I explained in my last post how I grapple with the concept of choosing between justice or mercy. While some situations are clearly one or the other, in most instances I struggle to choose, wanting to apply both.

Justice is fairness in that people get what they deserve, no more, no less. If someone works hard or behaves in a correct manner, they should be rewarded. The reward should match the actions. If someone does something wrong, they should be punished. The punishment should match the wrong-doing.

Mercy is forgiveness. It is often applied by someone with authority over another; for example a judge in a court of law, or an employer over an employee. Forgiveness or compassion can also be applied by a victim to their perpetrator.

It has been reasoned justice and mercy cannot be simultaneously applied or at least harmoniously practised because, if mercy or forgiveness is shown to someone who has done wrong, then justice has been denied to the victim.

(Note: For the purposes of this blog-post; I will put aside this concept in the area of criminal  justice, which is an entirely different aspect than issues I am confronted with.)

I constantly battle with the choice between justice and mercy; on social justice issues, in business and in my personal life. I believe in justice and fairness. I loathe seeing weaker or less fortunate people being taken advantage of by those of superior strength or position. I despise violence. I am intolerant of immoral or corrupt behaviour. I believe if you work hard, you should be rewarded for your effort. Yet…….. I am compassionate. I see the staff member with the disadvantaged background, I empathise with the person who tries hard yet cannot get it right, I feel the pain of the person who feels left out and thus behaves inappropriately.

I grapple with this choice between mercy or justice that seems impossible. Mercy invariably wins out, and I am gripped with the guilt of not being fair. I become a walkover in the way people treat me in order to get their own way. They know I will see their humanity. They know I will show compassion. They know I will care too much to allow them to suffer. They abuse that knowledge for their own means.

A personality test showed me as ‘INFJ’ (introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging). Apparently others of this type also battle with this; wanting fairness, yet feeling compassion for perpetrators of wrong-doing. Some famous people in this personality profile have struggled with this turmoil, such as Martin Luther King Jnr and Nelson Mandela. Reading that such exemplary figures have also struggled with this put my mind somewhat at ease. I am not alone. What become clear to me, as I read the biographies about them, is how they coped with their inner turmoil. They coped by standing up and speaking out for justice and fairness, never wavering on that issue. At the same time, however, they also preached non-violence and the letting-go of the desire for revenge on perpetrators.

There are others with different personalities who have also done so. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for example, struggled with this inner turmoil through South Africa’s apartheid years, and he is supposedly an extrovert. However, introverts struggle with both the turmoil of the clash of values and becoming outspoken about it.  Extroverts are more easily able to say what they think with confidence. Introverts want to hide away from attention and controversy. To read that some of those people who have battled this same inner turmoil and have become outspoken about it, are also quiet introspective people as I am, has both stunned and empowered me.

To learn they are/were introverts has stunned me. To know they found the courage to not only acknowledge this inner conflict but to also fight their own introversion in order to stand up for their belief in both sides of the coin, has empowered me. It means I can do that too.



My attitudes # 10 Humility. Water melting rock

“You must try, the voice said, to become colder.
I understood at once.
It’s like the bodies of gods: cast in bronze, braced in stone.
Only something heartless
could bear the full weight.”
― Jane Hirshfield
People have sometimes said to me ‘you are a rock’.
I have often pondered what that actually means and I believe it encompasses five things:
1). Being dependable to keep on with the small everyday and mundane tasks of life and not complaining about them but rather – just keep doing them – keep on, keeping on.
2) Always doing what you say you will, keeping to your word.
3) Being there in another persons’ troubles to help them out, or simply as moral support.
4) Being the ‘realm of safety’, the protector; and providing a place that is calm and secure for others – both emotionally and physically.
5) Being the one who remains level-headed in a crisis, putting one’s own fears and anxieties aside to step up and deal with the crisis; and even when you want to crawl into a hole and disappear, you cannot because others depend on you.
People urge me to remain ‘strong’.
I continually urge myself to remain strong and positive.
However, what I have learned about this personal crisis is that in times of emotional upheaval, to always remain ‘the rock’, that bastion of strength, would require an element of coldness and heartlessness.
And what I have learned about this personal crisis, is that sometimes I do not feel like that at all, I do not feel like that rock, I do not feel cold or heartless …… or strong.
Sometimes I feel:
‘I cannot do it’.
‘I need help’.
‘I am not as strong as I thought I was’.
‘I need to just breathe, I am not capable of anything more at this moment’.
And what I have learned is, that it is OK to feel like that.
What I have learned is that I too am vulnerable, just like everyone else.
What I have gained, is humility.
“Water is fluid, soft and yielding but water will wear away a rock, which is rigid and cannot yield……what is soft is strong.” Lao Tzu

My values # 4 Compassion

Kindness – Care – Compassion

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again”  William Penn

I spoke earlier about the value of feeling empathy for others. Kindness, care and compassion converts this feeling into action. Kindness is being friendly generous and considerate. Caring is looking after people. Compassion is having a genuine feeling of sorrow for a person who has suffered a misfortune coupled with a genuine desire to alleviate the suffering.

I grew up with kindness, care and compassion. I grew up knowing this was what you gave other people. My grandmother always showed compassion and care for sick people, immobile people, people doing it tough. My mother was the rock solid support for family and others, and compassionate towards charity recipients at her church by assisting them, or finding additional services for their needs. My father was a kind considerate person to everyone he knew. I learned this way of life and have always endeavoured to act with kindness, care and compassion towards all people.

With my husband leaving me, suddenly my world was turned upside down. When I was in my own world of comfort and security, it was easy to step up and help others in need. In my new world of pain and despair, I fell into self-indulgent pity. I was in a catch 22 situation. I felt that I could not become my previous self and care for others until I was strong again,  yet I was too ingrained in my thinking of putting others first to put myself first long enough to allow myself time to heal.

I have since grown to understand that these actions of kindness, care and compassion are things we all need, even me.

I discovered kindness as a gift to me by the random act of a stranger in the supermarket. I now have a greater understanding as to how much small acts of kindness can mean. More than ever, I endeavour to pass kindness on to everyone I meet.

Compassion is somewhat harder. For a long time, I felt that I was not strong enough in myself to show compassion and help others in need.

Then I found self-compassion. Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same care and kindness as you would treat someone else in need. I started becoming empathetic towards myself and reached an understanding of my own situation. I acknowledged that I was indeed suffering. I stopped being hard on myself. I started to be kind to myself. I started to care for myself, look after myself. Rather than being self-critical and thinking I should be doing better, rather than wishing ‘it’ hadn’t happened, denying it; I started to accept the pain and suffering that I was going though. I started treating myself with the same kindness that I would show someone else in my situation. I started feeling compassion for myself.

As I did this, a strange thing happened. I started to compare myself to others and I began to relate more to others. I looked around me and saw that my suffering was not unusual. I am not alone. I am no better or worse off than any other. I began to realise that what I was going through is all part of our human experience. We all go through troughs in our lives. It is not something that only I have to endure.

Reaching this state of ‘self-compassion’ has really helped me and, while I know that I cannot feel compassion for myself without truly feeling my own pain or truly observing my own negative thoughts and feelings, I strive to not be sucked down by too much gloominess by balancing this with a continual forward positive vision.

A few days ago, my daughter suggested that I get myself involved in a humanitarian project, a side of me that had become lost. I said to her that I was not strong enough. She told me that it was that that makes me strong. I thought of all that mother Theresa achieved in the world through compassion and decided that I was not that strong. Then I thought of my staff. Amongst them I know of five who are currently struggling, anxious or in less-than desirable situations. Five people I could show compassion towards, five people who I could help. I am not strong enough to heal the world. However, I could begin here, and I could begin today.

Perhaps my compassion for others is not lost, I just need to look for it a little closer to home.

“Helping others is what helps you get stronger. Do it before you feel strong. It makes you step outside yourself and move forward because you are helping others.”  Quote by my daughter.