Affirmative

In the last couple of days so many people have offered to help me, it has almost restored my faith in human nature. As ever, as I endeavour to do new things, I learn a great deal. I’m sticking them down here because I think they’re useful, and they’re the sort of things its easy to forget when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It doesn’t make them any less true.

Firstly, what seems obvious to me, does not always seem obvious to others, and this is not because other people are stupid and I’m a beacon of brilliance. It’s that we all think differently and we are not privy to the thought processes of others, despite the fact a lot of the time we act towards each other as if mind reading is one of our default settings. It’s why dialogue is so important. It’s why shouting at each other does not work. When we shout, we do not listen. When we talk to each other, when we think about what we’re saying and what people say to us, we can move forward.

I am not just talking about big, ‘important,’ ideas here. I am also talking about the small stuff. In some ways, the small stuff is way more important than the big stuff. The small stuff is our everyday operating mode. It’s easy to overlook the small stuff because it seems ‘obvious’. It isn’t obvious. It’s obvious to you, not everyone else. If you want someone to do something for you, do not assume they know how. Tell them exactly what you want. It isn’t patronising unless you intend it to be. Be clear. Help people to help you. Similarly, if someone asks for your help, if you aren’t clear about what they want you to do, there is no shame in clarifying matters.

Secondly, I realised yesterday that people are sometimes frightened of starting something, even though they might really, really want to do it, because they feel they should have some level of expertise, or already know how to do something. It’s this thing that keeps cropping up for me, that adults subconsciously decide that they no longer have to learn, that they know everything, and admitting they don’t is scary, and shameful and sometimes stops brilliantly able people doing things that can make a huge difference.

I can only speak about my own experience, but here it is, for what it’s worth. A few years ago I had my annus horriblis, where I looked at my life and the fact that it was at least half over and thought. ‘Fuck! What have I done with all this time?’ and ‘Shit! The clock is ticking!’ At the end of my long, dark teatime of the soul I decided something radical and yet incredibly simple. I decided that instead of being afraid of fucking up and not doing things and saying no, I would start saying yes. I decided it was better to try and fail than not try at all, at every, single level of my life. I decided that if I said yes to things, I would a) learn a lot, b) find out a lot more about myself and be less ashamed c) it would take me to some very interesting places and d) if I didn’t like it, or I failed, I could stop. Just because you say ‘Yes’, doesn’t mean you can’t ever say, ‘No.’

All it takes to change your life, and the life of those around you is to make the decision to say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’, in spite of overwhelming odds. I’m not an idealist. I’m a realist. I know how hard it is to effect change on a big scale, but I have learned, through saying yes and asking for help, and accepting help, and being willing to learn, that every, single time, the journey is the important bit, not the destination. The change, when it comes, comes from a million, million, incremental changes that trickle down and trickle down until all those tiny fault lines become a seismic crack.

I don’t know how to change the world, but I do know how to donate my coats to a homeless charity so that one less person might freeze to death on the streets. I don’t know how to change the world, but I do know how to fill a bag full of groceries and take it to my local food bank so one less family goes hungry this week. I don’t know how to change the world but I do know enough about starting a campaign to help my friend set up a campaign to save her local library that might be the difference between being literate and illiterate for thousands of children.

I don’t know how to change the world, but I do know how to change myself. It begins and ends with ‘yes’.

18 responses to “Affirmative

  1. As ever, well said. I am an Event Director for parkrun and inspired by your example we’re about to kick off a drive to supply our local food banks with food for this Christmas and beyond. We’ll be collecting on Saturday and Sunday mornings for the next four weeks and hopefully there’ll be lots of good things donated. Thank you so much for giving us the nudge we needed to get this going. If it works well, we’ll try and do a couple of collections in the new year as well.

  2. As ever Katy, you are so right.
    Sometimes the enormity of the problems we feel we face can just lead to paralysis. Recent events, and some of the reactions we see from them, can make you feel like hiding away from the world. There seems to be so much that needs to change, practically and in terms of hearts and minds.

    We are never going to move forward by taking a position and shouting at everyone who doesn’t share it. That goes for what I would call ‘the good guys’, as much as those that I struggle to understand and try very hard not to demonise. The only future that will work for us all is one where we are tolerant and prepared to compromise, and that has always been the case.
    I didn’t vote for brexit, to me it is contrary to everything I believe in, and that is just as important as any of the financial considerations. I would rather have cut off my own foot and eaten it, than voted for Donald Trump, regardless of Hilary Clinton’s alleged shortcomings. It would be tempting to see this as an ‘us and them’ divide, but you can’t categorise people that easily. I know perfectly good, kind and thoughtful people who voted for brexit and I imagine equally pleasant people had their reasons for voting for Trump. So often we only hear those that shout loudest, who by definition are usually the ones least worth listening to.

    If we are to stand any chance of making the best of a bad situation then we have to communicate and reach out. I can foresee a lot more hardship ahead and it will be small consolation to be able to say ‘I told you so’. No principle or entrenched belief is worth inflicting suffering on whole communities, and all sides need to recognise this and work together to prevent it happening.

    We may be powerless to influence the big stuff but, as you so rightly point out, there is a lot of little stuff we can be doing. Sometimes the big stuff takes care of itself in time anyway. If I’m right, the consequences of leaving the EU will become inescapably apparent and (52% of) the public’s view will change, and politicians and the gutter press will have to change with them. If I’m wrong, then it will lead to unexpected positives, so a win win situation. I just hope that things don’t have to get too bad before they start to get better, whatever the scenario, but that’s where we can all contribute by our actions.
    Looking at Donald in the White House he really reminded me of someone but I couldn’t think who, then someone put me out of my misery – it was post brexit Boris! That shell shocked realisation of what he had actually done and the consequences going forward. Hopefully his much more conciliatory and subdued demeanour will continue and he will learn to accept that as POTUS he can’t just implement any crazy idea that catches his attention for five minutes. If he doesn’t then I suspect there are plenty of others who will try to limit the damage.

    Meanwhile we need to get busy, so thank you so much for all your positive suggestions and please keep them coming…. Xx

  3. It seems to me that we have all become so self centered that we have forgotten how to help each other. About 25 years ago I was asked to fill a shoe box for a child in Africa…we were given an age and gender for whom this box would eventually go to…mine was to be for a young teenage boy.
    At this time I was extremely busy running my own business, raising my kids and looking after my 2 aged parents who lived in with us.
    Since this time, of all of the presents I have bought for friends and family, it is this shoe box which gave me the most satisfaction, pride and fun in filling…a baseball hat, one of those real hard rubber balls, dice, etc. etc. and into my shoe box I managed to fit 13 items.

    I am now retired and live in France, earlier this year my daughter.. who now is very busy running her own business.. was asking me for blankets and cooking pots etc to take down to help the refugees in Calais…finding some time in her very busy life to fill her car and travel to help others. It brought back memories of my shoe box that she as a young teenager had helped me to fill…. and it is with pride that maybe my little contribution set an example to her and now she will carry it forward.

    We must all set an example to our kids to be aware of the needs of those less fortunate and not be so self centered otherwise it is gong to be a very sad world….and Katy, whatever you do, and without realising it, by showing compassion and a confidence to speak out you will be setting an invaluable example to you kids who will remember, learn, and carry this forward into their adult life…..that in itself is a beautiful legacy.

    Carole x

  4. Some things I heard a long time ago,that “powerlessness is a fraud” and that a “series of small quantative changes can lead to a qualitative shift.”

    In other words, throughout our lives, we are conned into believing that there are some things we can do nothing about; so there is no point in trying. But we don’t have to confront the big picture and try to shift that; that’s just overwhelming. We can break an issue down into small things that we can do and just keep doing them.

    I’ve got a short story I wrote some time back, about how I think we learn to be powerless. It’s in the form of a letter to an old friend, who is sadly no longer with us. I’m sure he won’t mind if I stick on my blog.😊

  5. wonderful post, Denny xx

    ________________________________

  6. Yes Katyboo, love from Australia

  7. Another great posting. For my ‘little’ effort today I helped a RepairIt session at the Local Matters in Tavistock. Very surprised and pleased to find people bringing in every thing from vacuum cleaners to computers and printers as well as kitchen timers and table lamps. Things not usually repaired but often thrown away for the sake a loose wire, blown fuse or flat batteries but still with useful life. It saves someone some cash and the environement from more rubbish.

  8. Wow Katy, you’re on fire at the moment!
    Uplifting and inspiring.

    Changing the world happens one small step at a time by many, many people. Good for you for taking some of those steps.

  9. I know this poem has religious connotations that you may not agree with, but I think it is also a rallying call for us all who are appalled by what we see going on around us:
    Don’t leave your broken heart at the door;
    Bring it to the altar of life.
    Don’t leave your anger behind;
    It has high standards
    And the world needs vision.
    Bring them with you,
    And your joy
    And your passion.
    Bring your loving,
    And your courage
    And your conviction.
    Bring your need for healing,
    And your power to heal.
    There is work to do
    And you have all you need to do it
    Right here in this room. – Angela Herrera

    We need to be ready to do what we can, where we are, to bring peace and healing to this broken world. Thank you for your wise and stirring words. You always make me believe that there is stuff that I can do.

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