This week’s Colour Me Positive theme was Kindness and the prompt was a quotation from the Dalai Lama: “Be kind wherever possible. It is always possible.” There was an additional, optional prompt to use stamping but I ignored that and focused on the quotation. Pushed for time this week, I kept things simple. Monochrome, ink, using a fountain pen rather than my dip pen so I could work on the page while watching a movie with my kids, and doodles with some simple typography for the quotation. Simple and easy – just like an act of kindness.
This week’s Documented Life Project challenge was to combine the previous three weeks’ challenges: stamps, stencils and masks. The quotation prompt was one from Henry James: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” When watching the news at present, it is difficult to see much kindness in the world but I like to think that the sentiment of James’ words are true. If we want to affect change then we can all start by individually striving to respond to others with tolerance, compassion and kindness. Maybe small gestures have a ripple effect.
I wanted to illustrate that idea in my art journal, the notion that small changes in individual behaviour can be a seed that germinates and grows. I, therefore, used stencils and a mask – an oval blob I surrounded with thick black paint – to create a little pod person, a seed to grow in the darkness. I then used stamps to add the words “Just be kind”. A simple message for a simple idea and a simple page.
Following my Narwhal Diarrhoea blog entry – regarding a further delay of our shipping consignment – I was spitting feathers in anger. After venting my spleen on the phone to the shipping company, all that ranting and raving left me feeling at a low ebb. The reality was that there was now nothing anyone could do to rectify the situation. I will ensure lessons are learned and abject apologies made once we have secured our possessions but for now all I can do is try to problem solve how I am going to get through the holiday season with a house that contains none of our own things, while our advent calendar box, Christmas decorations, all the boys’ toys and games, are crossing an ocean and being held in a customs warehouse. It was all looking pretty bleak.
This week I have been visiting my sons’ classrooms, as part of National Education Week I believe, so yesterday afternoon I was visiting the Second Grade classroom and got chatting to the mom of one of the other kids, a boy my 8 year old has mentioned as a new friend. She inquired about our shipping and I really did not have the energy to put a positive spin on things so I explained that there had been a further delay and that we would not now have our festive bits and bobs in time for the holiday season so I was hoping to come up with some make-shift traditions and solutions.
Then something amazing happened.
She shared that her mother had died just a few months ago and that she was still storing all of her possessions as she had not felt strong enough to sort through them. Then she offered me all the holiday decorations because knowing they were helping us out would give her the impetus to sort through at least those items. She also felt it was what her late mother would have wanted. True to her word, she came over early yesterday evening to deliver the first couple of boxes. I was overwhelmed with her kindness. I got quite tearful. Her sons, who are the same ages as my oldest two boys, also loaned the kids some toys to play with. She also got tearful because she had embarked on clearing her mother’s things out. We stood there in the living room, cavernous and empty as it is, a reminder of everything we don’t yet have, and I felt so moved that I too welled up. There we were, the two of us, glazed cow eyes as we tried to hold back the tears, and we spontaneously hugged. Now I cannot do physical contact with people I don’t know extremely well, it freaks me out, so it was a bit of an out of body experience for me. I was just so touched by her generosity towards me, a complete stranger.
I have been feeling worn down and dejected with this whole sorry shipping saga. It’s hard to settle into family life in a new location when you are rattling around a mostly empty house with no familiar things to make it feel like home. If I allow myself to focus on that, as I have to frequently in order to overcome the obstacles of living with so few things, then a sense of dislocation settles over me. But the kindness of this stranger, her feeling so moved to help me, knocked me right out of that black cloud. Now I can focus on what we do have. We have a new life in a new place with new opportunities and crucially we have each other and really that is what makes a house a home.
So now I am going to make some new festive traditions for the holiday season since we cannot maintain our old ones for this year. There is no point pretending I can replicate what is stuck on a cargo ship. I am going to embrace the new. I will change things up, introduce new Christmas experiments and perhaps the successful ones can be incorporated into our traditions to blend the old and new.