It’s been a while since I read the famous career-advice book “What Color is Your Parachute” and some of the other ones that swiftly followed on its heels.
I always knew the color of my parachute: it was colored Writing and Teaching. When I “saw” myself in my mind’s eye, all my childhood onward, I was teaching something to someone, somewhere. And ever since my grade three teacher advised me to consider becoming a writer when I grew up, I saw myself first and foremost and relentlessly, a writer.
However, many would agree that following that inner guidance system, that North Star supplied happily from birth onward, is not so easy. A variety of pressures tend to thrust us toward whatever someone else thinks we should do, or what the emergency sense of poverty insists we do, or what the seductive draw of financial support for certain careers urges us to do. Or, simply, the hard fact of having to feed a family demands that we do.
Guideposts were placed clearly on my path, not only for career but for other areas of life. I happened to come across books about healthy nutrition and cleansing systems, nourishing spiritual retreats, and so on, at a time in the world when such things were considered very foolish indeed. I believed them and knew they would be good for me, but the unfortunate confusion that besets so many young people was my downfall.
I knew I should write and teach, and I had heard that the very first ever grants and loans for university were suddenly going to become available to Canadians within only a few months.
I had a child to support and no idea of what to do in order to ensure her future security. It was extremely sad that, in an effort to find spiritual direction in a frightening and empty world, devoid of family support, I had turned to an evangelical Church, becoming WHOOEE Born Again!!
I love to sing, and now I had the chance to sing in the choir and sing hymns all day long to myself. I loved the music of the church, had a tiny bedsit for my baby and myself, and worked for minimum wage in a medical lab run by a member of my church.
My girl and I pretty much starved. My wage kept us just alive, but it was better than the Welfare I had been on while I trained in office skills at Sprott-Shaw.
Due to a number of things that occurred within my church, it was thought that I would be better off if I trained to be a nurse, and went to Britain to do so. Since Canada was a member of the Commonwealth, Canadians had many advantages in being able to enter life in the United Kingdom with minimum difficulty. In fact, Canadians at that time could even fly to the U.K. and have dental work done free of charge, although that may not be the case now, I don’t know. It’s a long way to go to get a filling of course.
Well, I had always found the idea of nursing to be perfectly nauseous-making. As a Cardinal Capricorn, I need something much more center-stage. Every instinct I possessed tried to drive me away from the whole idea. But the church was persuasive and even unpleasant about the whole thing, (I was an unwed mother, so therefore a problem) so I set about finding a training hospital in Britain that would take me without a personal interview. I could not afford to fly over twice, that was for sure.
What was the draw in going to Britain? I had no money for training of any kind, nor did my family. In Britain at the time, you could train as a Registered General Nurse and get paid a small stipend. You could survive and come out with the equivalent of a Canadian R.N. The training was very different, but I had no idea just how different until I started.
Like a great big wimp, I surrendered the whisper of “grants and loans for university” and turned my face grimly to the charter flight for Prestwick Airport and a career in the dreaded nursing.
One of the big shocks was the food. As a student nurse, our breakfast consisted of white rolls, bacon, eggs fried in inches of hot grease, and white toast. The other student nurses had never heard of celery and had no idea you could eat cabbage raw, as coleslaw. Nutritional knowledge was zero at the hospital. As an ordinary Canadian with no nutritional training at all, I knew this was bad news. My dreams of fresh fruit and vegetables, cleansing and fasting occasionally, drinking clean water, living a wholefoods kind of life, those dreams died along with my intestinal health.
The training turned out to be entirely hands on, with no textbooks, no anatomy or physiology whatever. I won’t go on about that, you can read about it in my life story if you so wish.
After three and a half years of training, I emerged qualified to work as an R.N. in Canada and Britain. I knew nothing of the human body or how blood pressure worked, although I could take a B.P. faster than you could blink your eye.
As it happened, I stayed in Britain and married. I certainly grew in character and knowlege of life greatly during my fourteen and a half years in Britain, but the deep awareness that I should have been writing and teaching continued to gnaw at me. I took every opportunity to write little books on healthy habits, give talks at ladies groups, and teach clients at my little residential Health Spa.
Finally, as life wore on, I came back to Canada. I went to university at last and began to write. But getting anything published was, of course, next to impossible. I felt if I did not write, I would simply perish. Lie down and die. I took every opportunity to teach anyone anything I felt I knew well.
I knew, above all, that I had failed in my life purpose. That I should never have allowed the church to push me toward that negative career choice. Especially when I had been told that grants and loans for students were going to be available, I should never have gone to Britain. I had heard the bell calling my name, and I had turned a deaf ear, yielding to what felt like the pressure of authority.
Well, where am I going with this babble? I wanted to write a little bit about “Doing What We Love” tonight because I made some changes in my life lately and I suddenly understood why.
I have changed my house so it is more focused on doing things I love: writing, sketching, blogging. I began to wonder why I so suddenly and happily made these changes and why they feel so right. I also let go of some relationships, with a small amount of sadness but knowing they were dragging me down and holding me back. My life is nearly over now: I will be 67 next month. It’s too late for the shining, thrilling career I might have had as a teacher of adults in some capacity. It’s almost too late to write anything, given the difficulties in getting published any more. I have no more time to waste.
I always thought I should write for money. But I have had one great piece of luck: I have lived long enough to see the rise of the internet and the invention of blogging. The joy of putting the workings of my mind down in digital print does not require payment whatever. The joy exists as an intrinsic part of the exercise.
With the small and humble creation of a blog, I have found the most amazing, fulfilling little activity. It began when I had a Medium reading after my daughter died, as well as several family members.
In the reading, my daughter and mother both asked me to write my life story. At first I rejected the idea, but eventually I complied, not knowing what value there could be in doing so.
Needing some place to put the story, I hit on the idea of putting it on a blog. No need to find a publisher, and I had granted my daughter’s wish…the book was written and out there for anyone who wanted to look at it.
This was my first experience of a blog. It felt nice to put it out there for others to read, even one or two a week was terrific. Then I got tired of the book idea and started writing small articles about stuff I was learning in my own spiritual and developmental path.
It is an innocuous and unimportant piece of work: try to put out a post nearly every day. A small and pleasurable pastime. It makes me research, read and learn.
But as the weeks went by, and I began to notice that my life was changing at the same time, it seemed that blogging had something to do with the rest of my life.
Letting stagnant, weary relationships go, gently and kindly, suddenly seemed the absolute right thing to do. I didn’t know why. People I had catered to endlessly, not really enjoying the process, were carefully set aside to continue on their way without me. I suddenly wanted to have supportive friends who enhanced my life. I discovered that two or three mature and well developed friends were all I needed to feel pretty fulfilled. I could let the rest go. A load dropped off my back. No guilt involved.
My home focus changed to my pleasures. I dug around and pulled out all my old sketching supplies, happily emptying old boxes full of pencils, dried roses, pens, paintbrushes, packets of gold stars and who knows what-all. I dragged it all out to the kitchen table where it sits handy for time-wasting enjoyment.
Knowing I had to blog that night, if possible, I took time to read good books, research on the web, and spend time walking and thinking about the stuff I love. We live in the most exciting of all times, when consciousness research and writing is happening like a supernova all over the planet.
I take more time to tell my pets I adore them and hug them, I am jealous of time wasted doing non-productive things. My definition of “non-productive” having changed considerably all of a sudden.
In addition, a new surge of joy in living has taken possession of my spirit: I am glad to be alive. I hope to be alive in this body tomorrow, instead of hoping I will waken on another shore tomorrow in a better body. My beloved relatives, even my beloved daughter, as well as all of my much-loved pets, will have to wait for me to step out of the waters of the ultimate passage, placing my damp feet on their new territory. It doesn’t have to happen right now, after all: I am having fun.
Why did I not honor my own sense of correct direction when I was in my twenties, instead of allowing my church (one of the biggest mistakes of my life, getting involved in that church) to tell me what to do. Why did I not believe in my own right judgment? If you read this, you will probably be able to empathize; a great number of us have made the wrong turning on that youthful road.
God had plotted out a right course for me and shown me where the money could come from in order to pursue it, to care for my daughter and myself.
But I allowed the noisy voices of Others to kill that still, small voice of God within, and followed the wrong advice.
I could have taught and written to my heart’s content and done some good. Not that nursing was not doing good; of course it was. But no one did good for me. I gave and gave, not knowing how to receive, not knowing I was worthy to receive.
So I am thankful for the art of blogging, though I am a total novice. Just penning a few words once a day or every couple of days, fills up my time happily.
How fortunate I am to have lived to see the rise of the internet and invention of blogging.