Recap for blog 15 – people with frigid breath?: Zani and Jake agree to meet at the Cradle after Jake’s cycling session, to talk about “the baby business”. Zani packs far too many things and wishes she could travel as lightly as Jake. Who knows – her talk with Vee might be illuminating…
I leap out of bed and shower, shampoo, pluck, wax, moisturise and groom until I am able to convince myself that I look like I’ve just come off the set of a commercial for a beauty soap, and that no man will be able to resist my casual ‘fresh from the shower’ look.
Within an hour I am done, having packed the cooler bag in the space Jake left in the boot of the car and am off to the Two Tarts.
Vee comes out to greet me as I park. She gives me a warm hug and leads me into the kitchen where she is tending a batch of scones and muffins. She hands me a pot of herbal tea and tells me about the robin that has returned from its winter flight and all the other little signs indicating that spring is in the air. I am amazed at how Vee delights in even the smallest things and that her joy seems to overflow, filling the room and touching whoever enters. It makes me feel good just to be in her comforting presence.
In her honest and direct way, she comes straight out and asks if I have been considering the possibility that my bucket could be whole – that there are no holes after all.
Yes, I tell her, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about it, but doubt always seems able to convince me that I would simply be in denial if I chose to see the past in a different light.
Vee smiles warmly. “Change, in any form, is difficult, Zani. Old patterns die hard, but they can die. In fact, they need to die so that you can make space for new and more useful patterns of thought.”
“But, Vee, am I not lying to myself if I try to see the past in a new light?”
”No, Zani, not at all. Remember that no situation has inherent meaning. Every situation is given meaning.”
“Who gives it meaning then?”
“Well, it should be you, but sometimes – especially if you’re young – your parents, siblings, teachers or others you consider to be in a position of authority or to know better give meaning to what happens. And because you think they’re older and wiser, you tend to believe them and their meaning becomes your meaning.”
She picks up the teapot, indicates that I should bring the basket of rusks and then leads the way into the tearoom.
“That reminds me,” she continues, “of something I read in Like Water for Chocolate.
The girl was deeply in love with a man, but her mean mom connived to marry her sister off to the man. It was in the good, ol’ days when that sort of thing happened and she had to live with her pain – until some time later someone told her the most profound thing; that everyone’s born with a box of matches inside and that it takes a gentle word, a warm glimpse or an act of kindness to light a match and make the person glow with self-worth. Unfortunately, some people seem to be born with frigid breath and seem to take delight in blowing out other people’s matches or in drenching the box of matches with negativity, spite, ridicule and rejection. In so doing, a person’s glow of self-worth may fade until it’s little more than a glimmer.
All it takes is the willingness to allow it to dry by letting others near. Yes, yes, I know that that requires trust and making yourself vulnerable, but if you don’t do it, the price you risk paying is huge: a lifetime of being less than, not good enough, empty, just a glimmer of who you really are.”
“Wow. You talk about matches like I talk about an emotional bucket. These people – the ones you say have ‘frigid breath’ – are the same ones who drill holes in your bucket, leaving you feeling like you’re the sum total of the meaning they have been giving your actions and your life. And sometimes that doesn’t amount to much!”
“You’re right. Of course, you’re right. But what is equally important to know, is that most people don’t wake up one morning and decide – today I’m going to blow out some matches or today I’m going to drill some holes. No, they know pain, sometimes intense pain, in their own lives. They may come from a place of abuse, where there’s a lack of physical, emotional and social support… where there’s nothing. I don’t mean money and poverty – I know many folk who have an abundance of wealth and yet there is still pain, a lack that has nothing to do with money. For example, there may have been absent parents or parents who had no time, little contact and even less care. Or people who have an unrealistic view of others, or those who feel that life owes them … They become mean and hurtful because they can’t stand seeing others happy or glowing, because it makes their own lack and pain so much more intense.”
Vee goes to take the muffins out of the oven and places them on the cooling rack. It gives me a moment to let her words settle in. People have started to come in and a short queue has begun to form at the front desk. I know it is time for me to go. I pop my head around the door into the kitchen and quietly gesture to Vee that she has customers waiting and that I need to go. Quickly, she pulls the tray out and wipes her hands on a dishcloth.
“Sorry about that, sweetie. But come back. Please. I’d love to chat a little more, but duty calls.” She rolls her eyes. “And listen, see if you can find a book called Jabez’s Prayer. There is a bit where Jabez prays that he will be spared pain so he will not inflict pain on others. You’ll find that interesting.
As a parting shot, she says with a twinkle in her eye. “You’ve chosen a man who can dry out a shipload of matches – all you need to do is trust.”
Then she waves me off.
Back in the car, I sit quietly for a moment. There is something of a domino effect going on in my head, and all of a sudden, I realise what my priority should be.