Finding the Space Between

I love words.

They’re part of the holy trinity of things that make me whole: words, music, food.

These three things anchor my life, colour my world and fuel my existence. They allow me to express myself more meaningfully, feel more deeply, and to live more completely.

But, as The Bloke will tell you (and as he has even more frequently told me), sometimes I use words too much.

Especially with our children.

And, truth be told, I don’t always use my words in a pleasant way…but in more of a drawn out, repetitive nag.

Sometimes they even come out as a rant.

Or a tirade.

Or a garbled stream of complaints and admonishments.

My children are reaching the age when they either don’t need me so much any more, or when they firmly believe they don’t need me at all (and could I please leave them alone and perhaps also shut the door on my way out while I’m at it).

As you can well imagine, once you’ve thrown a bunch of elevated hormone levels into the mix, a politely phrased and modulated request to perform the most perfunctory of household tasks (the musical eqivalent of which would be Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending) can produce such unexpectedly snarling, snarky response (think Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Heads Will Roll turned up to at least 11) that I frequently and ever-so-immaturely find myself retaliating in kind.

Sigh.

Things came to a head for me last week (though, fortunately, heads did not actually roll) after an especially super-charged exchange with my elder child, and I did what any self-respecting woman in her mid-forties does, if she still can: I called my mother for advice.

And a bit of a cry.

OK — it was a lot of a cry.

Who says we ever finish growing up?

Except we generally do grow up, and sometimes our mums aren’t always there to listen or helps us find the answers, or to guide us gently to the truth at the heart of the matter — which probably has something to do with the fact that you’ve managed to nurture your child to this point, and now they have reached the stage of their existence where they have to complete that same process you guided them through all over again, for themselves. And that you’ve given them a safe place in which to express themselves and to try out all the wildly different versions of their new, expanding sense of self.

The real question, I suspect, is not about growing up or finishing anything at all.

Because — naturally, serendipitously — once I’d processed the truth bombs dropped by my teenager and the truth pearls bestowed by my mother, I happened to open a book and there was a quote from Rumi which stopped my breath:

And you, when will you begin that long journey into yourself?

When indeed?

And so, that’s what I’m doing.

I’ve chosen to be quiet, and to witness my reactions from within. I’m not asking my children to do things any more — they’ve heard my requests thousands upon thousands of times, and they know what my expectations are.

And when my expectations are not met, I am applying what I call Silent Theory. Not a frosty, passive agressive silence, but a moment of taking a breath and stilling the response which would have so quickly come to my lips and spilled out as sound the split second after my children didn’t do exactly what I wanted them to.

Who, I now wonder, was the child?

It’s extraordinary what you discover in the space between, if you choose to begin that long journey into yourself.

Mind yourselves,

BJx

Chop Wood, Carry Water

So ridiculously tired...

Folks, I’m more than a little weary.

After over 100 days in Lockdown, I am fortunate to count myself among the double-vaxxed who can now go about all sorts of business here in my little corner of the Great Southern Land.

But BEFORE Lockdown ended — ironically, inconveniently — we had to move house.

The past three weeks have been a blur of repeated strenuous activity: packing, sorting, carting, unpacking, crying.

Well, that’s not strictly true…I only cried when after more than ten hours on the phone to offshore call centres, I begged the universe to resolve my NBN and internet connectivity issuses, and a man named Cosmos (I know, unbelievable coincidence) finally agreed that I did indeed have a problem beyond my capability to solve and that a technician would be sent to our new abode…THAT was when I cried, and I have to admit it was the gulpy, messy kind of crying that only gets done when you’re really at the end of your rope.

Anyhoo, all that aside, we’re in. We’ve done it. And now we’re ready for the next exciting chapter in our lives, of knocking down our old house and rebuilding our dream home.

I made so many lists…

I feel incredibly fortunate, I really do.

But in all honesty, I’m mostly just tired.

I consider myself a pretty organised person, but the past three weeks have stretched me to the limits of my powers — and today is the first day that I am taking a much needed (and probably well deserved?!) break. I’m taking time to reflect, to acknowledge the enormity of what has just happened and is about to happen, and to consider some well-learned lessons.

Basically, the main takeaway I have from moving house (which, for the record, I have done more than a dozen times including twice overseas), is that you just have to keep going, and not stop until it’s done. It’s chop wood, carry water over and over again. And this time around, we had a steep driveway and several steep flights of stairs added into the mix.

But now it’s done! Because we kept going, chopping wood, carrying water, and didn’t stop.

Until today, which is — thank the old gods and the new — full of blue skies and sunshine, and space to do whatever we please.

And it’s really, truly good.

Mind yourselves,

BJx

Time to do absolutely nothing, if only for a few minutes…

Violets

Lockdown Day 77…

My mother’s garden is full of violets.

I know this because she showed me during one of our daily FaceTime visits, when I catch up with her and The Professor, and their cat, Monty.

She has always grown violets in her garden, and I have always loved them: their velvety petals, their heartshaped leaves, their deep sweet scent.

When I was a small child, I would pick posies of violets. My mother showed me how to clip the stems — not too long, not too short — and to gather a bunch of purple blooms, then surround them with a border of deep green leaves.

I could never pull the posy together quite as well as she did. Then again, I couldn’t do many things as capably as she could. Her hands are so much smaller than mine, but her fingers are deft. Her hands are careful, and care-filled.

To state the bleedingly obvious, one of the hardest things about Lockdown is not being able to see my parents.

And I would imagine — no, I know — that I am not the only one feeling like this right now. I also know that there are plenty of people who have not seen their loved ones for a lot longer than me, particularly when they are separated by vast oceans, either literally or figuratively.

But it’s funny how when you can’t see someone, you remember things you might not have otherwise, like picking violets for my mother when I was a little girl.

It also reminded me of the words of Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass, which I haven’t read for many years.

These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands,
     they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle

     they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.

This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,
This the common air that bathes the globe.

Clichéd as it sounds, and is, we’re all in this together. All in this common air.

Mind yourselves,

BJx

Of Hoops and Firepits

Lockdown Day 58? I think…

I’m sitting by the window in my bedroom, feeling the breeze and enjoying the blue skies and sunshine. Rain is forecast for most of the week, though we’ve been fortunate to have had a run of wonderful weather lately.

This Lockdown business doesn’t get any easier, does it?

The restrictions keep tightening — necessarily, in my view — and the days we’ve spent with the same people inside the same four walls keep increasing.

But the days are getting longer, too, and warmer. Yesterday Marvel Girl said she smelled a hint of summer in the air, and I suspect she was right.

Yesterday was a good day.

No working or schooling from home. No phonecalls. No Zoom.

We walked down to the netball courts near home, found a vacant hoop and played two on two for a while. Turns out that in addition to having a height advantage The Bloke and I still make a good team when it comes to ball sports. There was plenty of sledging and silliness and we laughed a lot while working up a sweat, then wandered home again.

Later in the evening, The Bloke pulled out the portable firepit we had planned to use on a camping holiday that got cancelled way back at the beginning of Lockdown. We gathered around it, filling it with dry sticks from the back yard and firewood from the servo down the road, and got a crackling blaze going. Soon we had salmon cooking over the flames, and then sat eating from plates laden with fish and salad and rice.

The moon rose, full and white, serene and wondrous.

We saw the International Space Station fly past.

We roasted marshmallows in the embers, ate popcorn and answered a steady stream of trivia questions from Miss Malaprop.

We played music: Christine and the Queens, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Wallflowers, Flight Facilities, Quincy Jones.

And then we tumbled into bed — tired, smoky and happy.

The Thrifty Fictionista Adds to Her List

Home schooling? Yeah, it’s great

Lockdown day 43…

Well, folks, it seems we Sydneysiders are in it for the long haul.

In addition to being subject to stay at home orders for over six weeks, many of us have also been home schooling our children for the past four. It’s challenging, frustrating and (around 11am each day) occasionally frightening: ain’t gonna lie about that part.

But it’s also incredible, really, how when you start focusing on things for which you’re grateful, you start to notice them more.

Since I wrote my last piece, the Thrifty Fictionista has remembered or noticed a bunch of other things that have made her genuinely happy lately. I’m sharing them in the hopes that if you’re locked down like me, you might discover there are things, however small, that make this strange existence of ours that little bit more bearable.

Here are a few more things that have brought me joy since this current state of affairs landed us at home for the foreseeable future:

Hamilton

Look — merch!

I am still pinching myself that when I booked tickets to a performance Hamilton for Marvel Girl’s birthday I chose a date at the beginning of June 2021. Had I selected a date a month later — closer to her actual birthday — we would not have been able to go.

BUT WE DID GO! And we had the best time, and bought ALL the merch, and enjoyed every single minute of the show. Seeing live theatre for the first time in aaaaaages was a blast, and sharing it with my completely Hamilton obsessed elder daughter was completely and utterly brilliant.

Something I really appreciated and did not expect also happened: hearing some of Lin-Maunel Miranda’s lines being delivered by indigenous voices, particularly by Innawonga and Yindjibarndi man Shaka Cook (who played Hercules Mulligan and James Madison), brought the words a whole new resonance. It was great.

Ugg Boots

Ugg snug…

It’s winter in Sydney, so we’ve stopped wearing thongs for now and switched to ugg boots instead.

And they rock.

No further explanation required, methinks.

(Picture added for the benefit of those who are slow on the uptake).

Jimmy Rees

Laughed my ears off…

Jason, Jason, Jason…what are you, stupid?! Don’t you know who Jimmy Rees is?

Between his “Meanwhile in Australia…” updates, hysterically funny interactions between Jason and “the Guy Who Decides”, and his takeoffs of Botox obsessed ladies from Brighton desperately seeking Pfiiiiiiiizer shots between their yogalaaaaaates classes, Jimmy Rees has brought belly laughs and some much needed hilarity to our household during Lockdown. He’s also known around our place as the artist formerly known as Jimmy Giggle…with apologies to Prince.

You know what to do, folks: pop him in your favourite search engine, sit back and be entertained.

Five stars out of five, Jimmy.

Christmas in July

Celebrating!

Supporting local restaurants and businesses has become a priority for many of us during Lockdown. When we finally get out of this mess, we want to be able to rock up to the places we know and love, get a good feed and enjoy the company of people we haven’t seen except via Zoom for the past…forever long?!

So when we figured out that not only were we spending both the kids’ birthdays plus our wedding anniversary in Lockdown, we splashed out on a Christmas in July feast from the fancy restaruant where The Bloke and I got married fifteen years ago. Three courses, all insanely delicious, picked up from the restaurant and finished off in our oven at home…it was glorious.

The unexpected upside of the entire experience was that our children got to eat top notch nosh in the comfort of our home, knowing they could try a whole pile of new things and still get a snack from the fridge if what we had ordered was not to their taste. Needless to say, they loved every mouthful and are now clamouring to be allowed to come with us next time we actually get to do a spot of fine dining.

Best of the Rest

There are other things that have made me unexpectedly happy or grateful during the past couple of weeks, and here they are in random order:

  • Palm trees.
  • Finishing Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy.
  • Cauliflower soup.
  • Watching Patty Mills captaining the bronze medal-winning Boomers.
  • Devouring everything Olympic, generally.
  • Getting a huge box of fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to my doorstep.
  • Walking in the sunshine.
  • A truly heartwarming text exchange with my niece on her birthday.
  • Hugs from the people I’m sharing these crazy days and same four walls with.
Thank the gods for the Olympics…

Anyway, whoever and wherever you are, in Lockdown or roaming freely, I do hope that you’re able to find something to enjoy or feel grateful for today. Not in a Pollyanna-ish way, but in a genuine, YEAH — THAT’S GOOD, kind of way.

Feel free to share it in the comments if you want: who knows, maybe it will brighten someone else’s day.

In the meantime, look after each other.

Check up on each other.

Please try to remember to wear pants.

And mind yourselves,

Blue Jai x

The Thrifty Fictionista Attempts Gratitude

Lockdown be like…

Lockdown Day 28.

Sigh.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to write when most of the people you know are experiencing exactly the same thing as you are. For me it’s the same four walls, the same family members, the same walk to the surf club and back — just to check the entire Pacific Ocean hasn’t mysteriously disappeared overnight.

The Bloke, knowing full well that I am generally the family member who jollies everyone else along, deadpanned that I should embrace gratitude during Lockdown.

Pfffft…

Then again, he has a point, and I do know I am indeed fortunate.

I am fully vaccinated, and The Bloke not far behind me (though the kids are yet to have a vaccine approved for them).

I am gainfully employed (though my work is being frequently interrupted by helping my children with home schooling).

I am happily married (though my anniversary present to The Bloke this year was booking in his second Pfizer shot).

You see the recurring theme, I’m sure — especially if you have a child in Year 5 and have been working through number patterns and algebra problems with them.

Yes, but

For every upside, it seems there is an inevitable downside.

Sick of the same four walls?

I’m trying to go back to the things I have learned from tapping away at the keys in this, my little patch of cyberspace. I’m looking for moments of delight. I’m attempting to put into practice the Divine Qualities I began exploring at the beginning of this year. That said, I also freely admit I have uncharacteristically shelved my project to continue looking into them throughout 2021: if past Lockdown experiences taught me anything, it’s that it’s OK to let go of things if it they are adding pressure to my existence rather than relieving it.

As a family, we’re trying to do things together that make us laugh — like watching old episodes of Travel Guides, which not only lets us explore the world from the comfort or our armchairs, but also has us simultaneously giggling and cringing at the antics of the various participants. For example, we watched the South African episode last night, and while we were in hysterics at some of the commentary during the safari portion of the show, we were downright mystified that some of the travel guides had never heard of Nelson Mandela?

There it is again. Yes, but

You see my dilemma?

I suspect I am not alone in this predicament, and that many parents across the Northern Beaches, across Sydney, and across Australia are, too.

So taking The Bloke’s advice to heart this time, I have challenged myself to come up with a list (in no particular order) of some of the things that I am purely grateful for — no ifs, no buts, no strings attached.

At least The Bloke still puts up with me…
  1. Our Cat, Tauriel the Exceedingly Magnificent.
  2. Ducted heating in the bedrooms of our house.
  3. Dark chocolate.
  4. FaceTime.
  5. Unexpected gifts, particularly a care package from my uncle at Canungra Creek Finger Limes.
  6. Baked potatoes and pumpkin. Baked lasagne. Baked apple and rhubarb crumble. Baked anything, really.
  7. A reliable internet connection, Netflix and Spotify.
  8. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall Trilogy (specifically) and fiction (generally).
  9. Piping hot tea, coffee and showers.
  10. Words, and being able to read them, speak them, write them and wield them.

I suppose, given that in a few weeks it will be fifteen years since we tied the knot, I should add The Bloke to the list too — if only so I can publicly proclaim that I do take his advice from time to time. (Pun deliberate, and Dad-joke worthy.)

Hang in there, people!

Mind yourselves, and each other,

BJx

The Thrifty Fictionista Adds to Cart…

Shoulda got up…

Lockdown Day 4…

I knew surrendering to the doona on Sunday afternoon was a mistake. Naturally, every last one of the weather gods took note of my devil may care attitude to the sunny weather they had provided, and proceeded to drench the Northern Beaches in several of days of rain. Admittedly, there was a splash of variety to said rain: it was either steady and incessant, or squally and hitting when you least expected it, but the fact remains that it was still rain. On the one occasion I actually left the house (for 2 of the 4 allowable reasons under the current stay at home orders), I even drove through pouring rain in bright sunlight…which is a seriously weird experience even when one is not in Lockdown.

Anyway, after a shaky start (replete with yelling from all sides), both of my children appear to have adapted to this new regime reasonably well — which is rather a relief, given The Bloke and I are both working from home in finance-related jobs and Lockdown has conincided with EOFY. Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop have been keeping each other admirably entertained, including boisterous exercise sessions outside and plenty of creative pursuits inside, and have sometimes even remembering to clean up after themselves. Needless to say, I have issued an open invitation to all family members to empty the dishwasher whenever they find it full of shiny, clean crockery and cutlery, but sadly so far only The Bloke has taken me up on this salacious offer. OK…it’s not even remotely salacious, it’s just flipping necessary…

WFH anyone?

Miss Malaprop and I have indulged in a spot of Lockdown Baking — no, not sourdough — which is hardly surprising as we are both rather fond of bunging things in the oven and being able to eat them in the not too distant future. Spotting a claw of increasingly blackened bananas darkening the kitchen fruit bowl, we made Banana Bread. Not just ANY garden variety banana bread, but Yotam Ottolenghi’s Banana Bread featuring roasted pecans, if you don’t mind, which is why this particular baked offering requires the use of Capitals…so la dee dah..

Recalling her recent online shopping for new jeans, the Thrifty Fictionista has resolved not to bake too much during Lockdown, lest she find herself unable to fit into said jeans, which are yet to wend their way to my doorstop. That has not, however, stopped her from ummm… well, from ordering…a few, no…a largish pile, let’s see… shall we say “several other” things online? They’ve all been necessary purchases, of course, like a lovely tartan woollen blanket. And an iPad case. And two sweatshirts. And the Nespresso pods that are due to arrive this afternoon. You cannot seriously expect me to endure Lockdown with coffee, can you?! Besides, it’s not like I’m rushing to the nearest supermarket to panic buy toilet paper…

Too much Baking…

So far, despite adding many things to cart when I probably should have said, nay shouted at the top of my lungs: “NO! Begone, tempting online shopping demons of the Interwebs!“, the Thrifty Fictionista is rather proud of herself for not purchasing any more books — with the (exceedingly) permissible exception of some small tomes she sent to New Zealand for a friend’s upcoming birthday. Resisting the seductive siren song of Booktopia and the Book Grocer and all those other sublime online book retailers has not been easy, but I am pleased to announce that managed to apply myself and diligently finished the Nureyev biography (which I struggled to complete, simply because I knew it would have to end inevitably with his demise and that’s not the cheeriest subject matter to confront while unable to freely leave your house for the foreseeable future).

Next, however, the Thrifty Fictionista took her own advice and cracked open the very beautiful (hardbacked and bookmark ribboned) Hilary Mantel box set I had been waiting to devour. Quite honestly, I am relishing every single moment I am spending with Thomas Cromwell in Tudor England.

Right from the opening line of Wolf Hall, the first book, I was entranced all over again:

So now get up…

A box set, you say…

It’s not such a bad suggestion, and one I probably should have heeded last Sunday instead of allowing the doona to welcome me as its own.

So now get up…

It really did remind me that Lockdown doesn’t have to be all bad. It doesn’t have to mean forgetting to shower on a regular basis, or spending days in your pj’s because you can’t be bothered getting dressed, or lamenting the fact that you can’t do anything.

Because there’s always something to do, somewhere, if you’re willing to look for it.

So now get up…

And mind yourselves,

The Thrifty Fictionista (aka Blue Jai) xxx

The Thrifty Fictionista in Lockdown (again)

How I imagine I look…

Lockdown Day 1, and the Thrifty Fictionista has once again taken to her bed.

Not because I’m sick, not because I’m occasionally inclined towards melodrama, but because it’s vaguely cold out — meaning it’s fine and sunny and not the slightest bit windy, but the temperature has dipped below 20 degrees Celcius, which is regarded quite decidedly as ugg boot weather in my part of the Antipodes. We’re not wimps, really we’re not…

Besides, now that Greater Sydney has been placed into Lockdown (again) there is literally no chance anyone is going to come knocking on our door, so there’s nothing to stop me from typing away on my trusty laptop under the cover of my delightfully warm doona. The Bloke and the kids are down the other end of the house, and given we are going to be trapped together for the next thirteen days none of them is feeling the need to interrupt me (yet). I even have a hot cup of peppermint tea on my bedside table, though that did require me to give one of my two TBR piles a bit of a shove so it would fit. TBR, for the uninitiated, stands for “To Be Read”, which is both a sacred and dreadful practice of stacking large quantities of books you plan to read on your bedside table, the precipitous nature of which may or may not impede your spouse’s ability to successfully procure clothing from their side of the wardrobe.

Lockdown level annoyed…

At the top of the nearer TBR pile is a biography of Rudolf Nureyev I dived into after writing my last post, the reading of which I have been interspersing with bellyflops into romance novels of dubious quality (not usually a genre I pay the slightest bit of attention to, but every now and then my brain craves a book that is the mental equivalent of chewing gum).

In my defence, my brain probably does deserve a bit of a break. A large chunk of my morning (in between moaning about being in Lockdown again) was spent rescheduling the holiday we had planned to take next week, cancelling the cat sitter, and working out how to make my elder daughter’s 13th birthday next week feel less like she’s spending in Long Bay Jail?

I only meant to read one…

Apologies — am just back from a spot of online shopping; I had to throw out my favourite pair of blue jeans the other day due to the development of a hole in an unmentionable place, and since I can’t go to the Mall or anywhere else for the next two weeks, needs must. I suspect this digression may also enlighten you, dear reader, to the state of my mind at the moment and why I am resorting to reading trashy romances. It’s like a tin of worms in there, folks. Or maybe a bag of fleas?

Anyhooooo….the Thrifty Fictionista, currently warm and toasty but evidently sporting the attention span of a gnat, has now finally recalled the real reason she began tapping away at her keyboard on this fine, sunny, slightly cold but doona-covered afternoon: if you’re boxed in, the best solution is a box set.

YASS QUEEN! It worked for me last time we were in Lockdown (or was it the time before that?), when I cracked through an enormous box set of Sarah J Maas fantasy novels, tomes weighty enough to anchor the QE2 in Sydney Harbour…were it not for the fact that we have closed our international borders indefinitely and the mere sighting of a cruise ship off the coast is likely to send most Sydneysiders into a panic faster than you can say “Ruby Princess”…

Quality lockdown reading…

This time the box set I have chosen is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy. I suspect I’ve already read the first two (the ones that both won the Booker Prize) a long time ago, and the third one — well, it’s as gigantic as the others, and I am looking forward to reading all three. At its best, historical fiction is immersive, and what better time than Lockdown to lose yourself in another time and (hopefully not plague-ridden) place?

And we’re not really all expected to clean our houses from top to bottom all over again are we?

No, seriously — are we?

The Truth Will Set You Free

Telling the truth.

It’s a basic building block of society. A moral imperative. Something we raise our kids to do; something we expect of each other. And yet, in an era where Fake News is a real and troublesome thing, it’s good to be reminded every now and then of how important telling the truth acutally is.

Truthfulness, not surprisingly, is one the Divine Qualities mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, and while I’ve written about truth before, having the opportunity to view all sorts of virtues through a different lens has kept me interested in exploring the Divine Qualities during the course of this year. And, having spent last year focusing on delight in all its myriad and unexpected forms and often finding joy the tiniest of details, it is equally unsuprising to me that a couple of things have happend to me lately that inspired me to view truthfulness via…ballet.

Yes, ballet.

Relax, please relax — I’m not about to include video footage of myself or anyone else explaining truth via interpretative dance.

Rather, the first oddly inspirational thing that happened was that I didn’t go to the Ballet, even though I had planned to see the Australian Ballet’s final Sydney peformance of Counterpointe. The truth, difficult as it was to admit to myself, was that I was simply too tired to go. Circumstances (think sick kids, a bunch of meetings, various deadlines, a whole pile of domestic detritus and an emergency call to the Fire Brigade when my car unexpectedly started spewing petrol from its undercarriage) conspired against me, and I was exhausted.

So I owned it.

And I didn’t go.

I didn’t go, even though I would have genuinely loved to. I didn’t go, despite the fact it meant I missed out on the first live performance I’d planned to see since COVID hit. I didn’t go, which means I haven’t ventured across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in well over a year.

Most importantly, I didn’t go because I was honest with myself — and, as a result, was dressed for bed before the dancers stepped on stage and was slumbering well before the final curtain fell. I deliberately chose not agonise over my decision to stay home, so I slept soundly. I did not succumb to the sickness my kids had brought home, because I consciously prioritised rest. And that meant…drumroll please…that I was free to do the things I wanted to in the days that followed.

It may not sound like much — going to bed instead of going to the ballet — but, if 2020 taught me anything, it was that the little things are often the ones that really count.

Except when you’re Rudolf Nureyev, and then the BIG things count.

And, of course, that brings me to my second inspirational thing: watching Jacqui and David Morris’ 2018 documentary Nureyev. Even though the film has its flaws (when Rachel Saltz reviewed it for the New York Times she noted in her title “His Life was High Drama: this Film Could Use More”), all of the footage depicting Nureyev is transfixing. Regardless of whether he was performing on stage, being interviewed on television, or simply walking down the street, Nureyev commanded attention — and deservedly so.

Nureyev wasn’t just a star, he was more like a comet blazing through the skies.

His story has everything: childhood poverty, Stalinist persecution, rising fame across the Soviet Union, defection to the West at the height of the Cold War, global stardom, tumultuous relationships on and off stage and, finally, death from an AIDS related illness. He was a man in motion, from the moment of his birth — on a train, en route to Siberia in 1938 — and he lived and danced with an instantly recognisable intensity. The documentary does show some archival footage of Nureyev dancing, rehearsing and teaching, and also includes some memorable still photographs taken by Richard Avedon, but somehow the audience is still left wanting more — more Nureyev, more, more more.

And yet, despite its shortcomings, a couple of moments in the film took my breath away.

The first was during an interview, when Dick Cavett asks Nureyev (resplendent in a snakeskin tunic and matching thigh-high platform boots) whether he remembers the first time he knew he wanted to be a dancer. The camera switches to Nureyev’s face, capturing the exact moment when his dark brown eyes begin to gleam as he nods his head slowly, recollecting the occasion, and no doubt the feeling, of knowing that was what he wanted to do.

The truth in this exchange — not verbalised, but demonstrated — is palpable, and beautiful.

The second was when the film explored Nureyev’s defection to the West in 1961, an incredibly dramatic event not particularly well rendered visually in the documentary, but memorable because of the voiceover providing the words of Nureyev himself. Faced with the choice of returning to an uncertain future (and possible imprisonment) in the Soviet Union or remaining in Paris, Nureyev calls on the one person he thinks may be able to help him: French socialite Clara Saint, who at the time was engaged to the son of the French Minister for Culture. It is Clara who alerts the gendarmes at the airport that there is a Soviet dancer who may be wanting to defect, and it is also she who explains to Nureyev what he has to do in order to gain their protection.

You have to tell them what you want to do.

In other words: truth.

You have to tell the truth.

Nureyev then tells the French police:

I want to stay here.

And with those words, the truth set Nureyev free.

Sometimes, truth can be found in the tiniest things.

Other times, it’s in the very greatest things of all.

Ahimsa

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks, trying to find the words for my next exploration of the Divine Qualities from the Bhagavad Gita. Various things have happened around me recently, however, that have resulted in me struggling to find the right words, and have also necessitated me applying a trigger warning to this post for anyone impacted by suicide.

Ahimsa translates most simply as non-violence but resonates with much deeper meaning, embodying the premise that since every living being contains the spark of divine energy, if you hurt any other living being you also hurt yourself. Mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita and many other ancient texts from the subcontinent, it is one of the core values adhered and aspired to by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

I would argue Ahimsa is a quality worth embracing by anyone and everyone, regardless of your religious or spiritual persuasion. You don’t have to be Gandhi to know that actively respecting all living beings is a worthy goal. Choosing a non-violent path is, in my view, a no brainer. Simply put: no one gets hurt.

Recent events in my life have, however, made me wonder — what of non-violence with ourselves?

A couple of weeks ago I was, unfortunately, confronted by the death of someone who had reached such a depth of despair that they no longer recognised the spark of divinity within themselves. This person was a complete stranger to me, but by choosing to end their life outside my workplace they have become someone I have had to find a way — some way, any way — to understand.

I know, in general terms, what they did and where they did it.

I definitely don’t know why they did.

I don’t even know their name.

But I do know that their actions have had unintended consequences — not all of them positive — on me and on those who work with me and around me and, against the odds, I am doing my best to see all of these through the lens of gratitude.

I’m grateful for the woman who works next door to me, for stopping me from going into my office and seeing something I would not be able to unsee, and for giving me a much needed hug after I had dealt with the police and paramedics.

I’m grateful for my boss, who — despite being directly impacted herself — has not only been flexible with my work hours, but has also been someone I can talk to and make sense of this tragedy with.

I’m grateful for my children’s music teacher, who knew what happened and that I didn’t want to tell my kids, and who made music lessons that afternoon as normal as possible even as I sat, trying not to fall to pieces, on her sofa.

I am grateful for my mother, who has let me get every last emotion and reaction off my chest in response to this awful event, and who didn’t need me to explain how difficult this experience was for me because we lost a beloved member of our own family member exactly the same way.

I’m grateful for my husband, who has patiently borne with me as I’ve navigated the flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms that have inevitably arisen over the past few weeks, and who has encouraged me to rest when I’ve needed to, paticularly when hypervigilance has amped up and overwhelmed me.

Life is precious.

So precious.

Nothing is more important than nourishing the spark of the divine within us, and of encouraging to burn that fire to burn brightly within those around us.

And even when we struggle — really struggle — to get on with people, it is essential that we make an effort to find a way to silently say Namaste and acknowledge the divinity within them, even if we can’t see it for all the world.

Be gentle with yourselves and each other, friends.

BJx