Seeing the beauty everywhere. I took a peek at the title of this chapter after finishing the previous blog and, honestly, after the initial excitement, the pressure to research membership prices for Tate Modern and stop to observe nature on the nursery run took hold for a while. More importantly, we’ve seen a series of incredibly sad events unfold in the media over the past couple of months and it’s been hard to see the beauty anywhere, never mind everywhere. Like many others, I found some comfort in the resurrection of Fred Rogers’ famous quote, “Look for the helpers”, and used it to find my inspiration again. With it, I also found some confidence in my ability to see beauty all by myself, so I think I’ll keep the seventy quid for now (sorry, Tate) and see where this takes me.
For anyone new here, I’m attempting to document life lessons for my daughters using the general structure of a gifted journal, ‘My Prudent Advice’, as a guide. So far I’m not sure I’ve written much worth ever showing to them, but there’s loads left to cover so I intend to carry on regardless and hope things improve! Anyway, the headings below are taken from the 8th chapter of the journal and the answers are mine, written to my very little ladies, Anya and Ellora.
Here are some things that have inspired me:
Poetry: No, sorry girls. I hate to start this way but I haven’t carried any of the poetry I was taught as a child into adulthood, nor have I educated myself about poetry in recent years. I want this so-called advice to be totally genuine, so I have to admit that the only moving poetry I can currently recall is from the funeral scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral (sob). Perhaps you’ll be more explorative than your mum when it comes to creative writing.
Music: I’m quite open minded about music and not everything I listen to would be considered ‘good taste’… ask your Uncle Jack for an honest take on the situation. The R&B and old-school garage music I listened to as a teenager can still make me grin like a fool (ask me about those Ayia Napa years when you’re older… actually, don’t), but that’s mostly because it’s reserved for rare nights with my other girls. The effort I put into today’s music can be summarised as “I switch the radio on everyday”, but I obviously enjoy listening to some stuff (Ed Sheeran, for example) over other stuff (Little Mix). I’m usually drawn to strong, stylish, often slightly depressing female singers, such as Amy Winehouse, Nora Jones, Sia, Emeli Sandé, India.Arie, Lauryn Hill, Delilah, Sade. I’m not sure whether they inspire me or just go well with a bottle of red…
Quotes: A few favourites spring to mind:
“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” ~ Oscar Wilde
“Mothers and daughters are closest, when daughters become mothers.” ~Author Unknown
“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” ~ Coco Chanel
“We mothers are learning to mark our mothering success by our daughters’ lengthening flight.” ~ Letty Cottin Pogrebin
“Maybe the best any of us can do is not to quit, play the hand we’ve been dealt, and accessorize the outfit we’ve got.” ~ Carrie Bradshaw
“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” ~ J.D. Salinger
Artwork: Your daddy and I loved filling our first house with art when we moved in, but I’m absolutely sure we rushed into it. It’s not that I dislike the pieces we chose at all, but I don’t think I appreciated back then how much art (and the right placement of it) can influence a person’s outlook. One of the effects of having babies is that you tend to spend a lot more time at home (particularly in the evenings!) and I’ve realised that my favourite piece by a mile is a collage of photographs in the centre of our living room. They’re not personal photos – it’s an artist’s collection of colourful graffiti shots from an old railway in India – but they’ve definitely been a big inspiration behind me finding a new hobby in photography. I enjoy the reality of a photo and learning about how to create something beautiful from a snapshot in time. Our next home will be filled with pieces like this (because the dream home has an abundance of empty walls for a load more artwork, obviously).
Scenery: I find that the scenery I’m inspired by depends completely on the mood I happen to be in at the time. If I’m feeling fearless or playful then a bustling city scene feels like a sea of opportunity and fills me with excitement. If I’m insecure or subdued, however, the same scene would either intimidate or irritate me and I’d crave tranquility instead. These are the times I enjoy the train journey from London back to Sheffield, when I can stick my headphones in and watch the city morph into suburbia and then countryside (at least, I could before you two arrived… now the same journey means staring at the M1 whilst singing to the Disney soundtrack in a voice that’s animated enough to keep one of you awake but also soft enough to encourage the other to nap).
As a general reflection, I believe that we all have to learn how to see beauty for ourselves. It comes from being comfortable in our own skin; finding the freedom to get out of our own heads and look around. I really hope that I can help you develop that sort of confidence and self awareness as you grow up, but I expect you will continue this particular journey into adulthood (I certainly did).
Today, during a walk in the park, I had the rare pleasure of an hour’s peace while the two of you kindly napped together in the pram. I stretched out under a tree, left my phone in my bag and resolved to take in the beauty around me (homework for writing this blog). I’d like to tell you that I discovered something new, but, rather predictably, I laid there staring at you both instead. And you looked beautiful.