LIFE CHANGES, Part 1

I’d like to write about what’s going on here. It’s a long story,
which begins with a change of address from Belgium to Florida.
To make things easy, I’ll start with something very clear and simple, Box 21.

Life Change, PART 1: Box 21

BoX 21

The view from BOX 21 is unbelievably perfect. You find yourself looking directly down over the orchestra, able also to look out at the audience without turning your neck in the slightest. Seats #1 and #2 are the best, of course. Once you’ve tried them, they are the only seats at the Mahaffey Theatre that you’ll ever want to sit in again. I’m absolutely sure of that. And you’ll definitely feel like royalty when your usher guides you along the back corridor that leads directly to your seats. It’s perfect for someone with a walker or a wheelchair because there are no rows or crowds to negotiate. In our case, there was no one else in the box with us when the lights went down and the choral strength of O Fortuna jolted us to attention.

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My mother was enamored immediately by the conductor. Unfortunately, we were told that taking pictures was forbidden. We could easily watch his face as he was conducting and were fascinated by the range of expressions there~ friendly, stern, euphoric, urgent, placid~ we were glued to it as he cajoled, pushed, and commanded musicians and singers through the fantastic and raging energy of Carmina Burana. He knew every gut-wrenching lyric. We watched mesmerized as he mouthed them, eyebrows raised, head thrown back, and wand flourished mid-air, pointed at this section or that. Sometimes I was certain that he had glanced our way, stealing a quick peek up at us. It made me feel so close, and I worried that we might throw him off if our eyes actually met. Ha ha. What illusions we entertain in Box 21! We couldn’t understand how the orchestra followed his cryptic gestures, as the downbeat seemed only to be a visual cue, followed immediately by the inexplicably timed unleashing of sound. It was like a secret code of hand signals that no one but the performers could read. Electrified by pounding drums and lamenting voices, we gripped each other’s hands in the darkness, and listened raptly.

BOX 21, seats 1 & 2 is an allegory for the new life mom and I are carving out for ourselves. Yes, she has been declining, but still loves getting all dolled up and going out to a good show. And yes, I have been grieving, but I too still love getting dressed up and going out~ both of us still alive and yearning to be surrounded with the beauty of the living creative world. Yesterday when she heard there was a class nearby, she announced, “Let’s go! I really want to do Tai Chi!” I had to agree. “Me, too, MOM. I’ve wanted to do it for years, but never quite got around to it. Why don’t we both go!”

We missed it today because of a painful stomach upset she got last night, but it’s twice a week, so now it’s on the Friday calendar. We have a pool date with Dana and Judy on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a lunch date with Murph on Wednesdays, and if all works out, Tai Chi on Mondays and Fridays. Monday at 4pm is happy hour at E&E with the Team (me, Mom, Dana and Judy), and Sunday she goes arm and arm with our neighbor Dianna to church. In between are 3 tiny meals a day, and a growing cookbook to document the creations coming out of our kitchen. Weekday evenings at 6pm we have an appointment with Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart. We’re also regular viewers of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, which is one of our spiritual ‘nouritures’ for the week.

With Judy at E & E

With Judy at E & E

We like our little glass of red wine at about 4pm, with cheese and crackers and some humus if we have it. It’s usually served out on the back porch where we can watch wispy clouds moving across blue sky, and feel the late afternoon sun on our legs and faces. Calli the cat takes the sunniest spot with the biggest cushion, but we make do, and wouldn’t have it any other way. We both look forward to a quiet evening after the Daily News is over. Mom steals my book sometimes, and I steal hers. Or sometimes we read out loud together, taking turns. One night we sang~ I had Glad’s guitar at the time~ but usually we just sit and read, or talk, winding down along with the sun.

Callie

Callie

I know. This all sounds too idyllic. You’re right if you were thinking so. I’ve only shown one side of life here at my mom’s place in Florida. There are definitely others. But today I have committed to 24 hours of no complaining, so I have to be careful. If truth be told, there really isn’t much to complain about, but I can always find something, and I usually do. The reality is that stress builds up when I don’t ask for help, explain my needs, or take care of myself. When I allow negative thoughts to run rampant through my mind I feel bad, and unfortunately I’m all too used to doing that. As a caregiver, I have to remember that one of the biggest challenges is to make sure I give myself the same valuable care and attention that I’m giving to my mother. It’s like giving yourself the oxygen mask before you try to put one on your child. Everyone knows that it would be foolish to try to do it the other way around, but we often do it anyway. Burnout is a dangerous reality in the world of caregiving, and I have been teetering on the edge of it ever since I got here, 7 1/2 weeks ago. Self-care! It’s become a mantra. That brings me round to the big question: What are my needs, and how can I satisfy them? And what are Mom’s?

Every day we take a step closer to answering those questions for ourselves. One thing I know for sure, there’s more to life than eating, sleeping, and not falling☺ Mom has fallen 5 times since I got here, so prevention has become a daily, moment by moment concern. She’s not really the one afraid of falling~ that’s the caregiver’s big burden, and my number one stressor. It’s easy to get into a red-alert mentality 24/7. After recovering from the jolt of a recent fall, Mom felt good enough to go out with Judy to one of their usual haunts, E & E Steak House, where they like to sit at an outdoor table and sip margaritas. I noticed when she came home that she was fresh and excited and EXPANSIVE. She practically sailed through the door, feet barely touching the ground. The transformation was shocking. I had been overly protective, motivated by fear, and her spirit had started to wither. I felt guilt mixed with happiness when I saw how happy she was. Likewise, when Dana came over and dressed her up in all kinds of form-fitting spandex, and coached her through some deep breathing knee bends, I was surprised how young mom looked, and how girlishly she admired herself in the mirror. Going to see a performance by the Florida Orchestra was the same. She was relaxed, enthusiastic, and fresh, and I had to take another look. Where did the aging parent go?
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I know we all need to be spiritually and emotionally energized by doing the things we love to do, and being in the places we feel most alive in. And it’s not enough just to preserve life. Living life to the fullest is our challenge now, and every day we take a baby step toward more joy, more satisfaction, and more life. Knowing the time is limited helps.

For me, the pool is an important part of my Self-Care. I never was much of a swimmer in my life, but I’ve discovered since coming here to live with Mom that I love how I feel when I’m in the water. Especially when it’s 87 degrees (the water) and only a 3 minute walk from our front door. I like that I can be alone AND public at the same time. Little by little I’m meeting the regulars, and a few of us know each other by name and it feels good to wave a welcome. I also learn things here and there from random conversations. Last week I found out that the pool gets cleaned 3 times a week. The day before I had found out that living here in this complex entitles us to a free membership at the spa nearby. Being friendly pays off.

Moving my body in ways I never do when I’m on dry land also pays off. I know I’m releasing stress with each stretch of my hand, and I feel as close to being a dancer as I ever have~ gliding through shimmering liquid turquoise, each stroke a work of art. Sometimes I imagine Michael Phelps, and pretend I’m a former Olympic swimmer. People keep telling me what a beautiful stroke I have, and if it looks anything like it feels, it certainly must be.

I’ve been gathering a pool wardrobe since arriving here. The thrift stores are part of my self-care because I feel so good when I find something I love and only have to pay a few dollars for. I have 5 bathing suits now, and they’re all pretty. Even though I’m overweight, I don’t feel like it when I’m walking across the patio or stepping out of the pool like I always did in the past. I feel good about my body, and unconcerned about what anyone else might think. Maybe it’s because most people here are older and more out of shape than I am, but I think it’s also because I’ve finally grown out of all the body-shaming that most of us go through as young women. I did it to myself, but no more!

What else nourishes me ~ physically, spiritually, emotionally, or mentally?

1. Meeting and talking with people~ the owner of Papa’s Diner, for example, and advertising his new restaurant to my neighbors here.
2. Getting advice from Mom’s friends~ who are healthy and still active, and who know and love her.
3. Spending time at the pool~ I know about 8 people by name there now, and I often learn something new about life here when I get into conversation with one of them.
4. The good books that keep coming to me.*
5. Taking pictures of everything beautiful and inspiring. Documenting my cooking.
6. Getting involved in something bigger than myself~ (like IWK, or KMU). I just signed up for a volunteer training program at the Suncoast Hospice Center the first week in December. Looking forward to meeting someone I can make friends with, like Lina, or Linda, or Lia.
7. Having a good talk with Mom over breakfast, or Dana at her pool. Getting an email from Maja, and writing to Anna, or getting a call from Emilie.
8. Singing~ it’s always been a big part of my self-expression, but recently I don’t sing often~ maybe I should find a guitar and take it to an open mic.
9. Mailing a gift package to BonPapa, Jean and Delphine (and buying the things to send them that I know will bring them all joy). I am waiting to hear from them when it arrives.
10. Buying nice things for Mom (the bib, the tickets to the show)
11. Being creative in the kitchen, and mom’s continued appreciation. She thinks I’m a gourmet cook, and I’m beginning to feel she might be right! I would like to get some help putting a cookbook together in a beautiful website, or book format.
12. Recording my thoughts and feelings on my phone as they come up ☺
13. Getting out of the house and going for a walk or a drive (often to the thrift store, and sometimes to the beach.
15. Training the cat to be picked up and held…She’s getting used to my heavy-handed ways, and doesn’t run away anymore when she sees me coming for her.
16. Opening the windows, feeling the fresh air, and breathing.

Mom also loves the pool, but she hasn’t gotten into yet. She calls it ‘the beach,’ and I do to. She likes to wear her suit and bask in the sun, and watch me do all the work. I’m pretty sure though that when she finally does get in the water, she’ll be a convert, just like me. She always wanted to be a dancer, and she’ll find out that she still can.

The 'beach' at Imperial Palms

The ‘beach’ at Imperial Palms


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She gets most animated when friends visit. Also when she meets new people on our walks around the gazebo across the street, or the neighbors passing by. She loves to stop if she spots Jim driving by in his golf cart, or the bus driver slowing down to wave. Everybody around here seems to know and love her. “Hi, Marilyn! I hope you’re not getting into any trouble today.” ☺IMG_1547

She reads the daily paper, does the crosswords, and loves reading a good novel. Her friends keep bringing over books for the two of us to read. Most of them are about the spiritual journey. I’ll have to write more about that in another post.
In the exercise department, Mom loves brisk, in-sync walking, arm in arm with a friend. We link arms, start out on the same foot~ left, right, left, right~ and off we go. We made it to the beach only once since I’ve been here, and that’s too bad, because she truly loves to watch the clouds at sunset. But she get’s tired more easily now. That’s a change I’ve noticed just since the summer. She doesn’t go as far as she used to, but she still exclaims about how good being out makes her feel. She can’t do it alone without a cane or a walker though, and that’s one of the transitions that she has had to adapt to. More about all this in my next post.

The I love my Walker Pose

The I love my Walker Pose


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Life Change, PART 2: The UnderBelly (to be continued in the next installment ☺)

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A Love That is Wild

I discovered Terry Tempest Williams recently, in a book my mother gave to me. It’s a wisdom book without a name, full of wonderful words and pictures. I asked her (my mother) to dedicate it to me, and she did, so now it is mine, and I will carry it with me from now on, until I too pass it on to a young and eager woman.

One of the passages in the book is the one below, taken from Terry’s journal entry about dissolving her marriage, and striking out on a path to discover the meaning of love. I hope I can find and read the rest of the story. She is still with her husband, and they have pioneered a path that might help to guide others.

A LOVE THAT IS WILD, by
Terry Tempest Williams
Terry Tempest Williams

October 13, 1990
I have been in the Adirondacks. I am tired and relieved to be home. As I walk off the plane, Brooke meets me. His stare is disarming. I kiss him and hand him my two bags.

“It’s not working,” he says.
“What?” I ask, startled by his focused intensity.
“What’s not working?”
“Marriage. I hate what it does to people. I hate what it’s doing to us.”

We begin a brisk walk down the terminal, side by side, my mind trying to accommodate what my husband has just said.We enter the current of individuals madly coming and going, brushing against one another as they run to catch or miss their planes.

“You want a divorce?” I ask as we step on to the moving sidewalk (a mechanical voice chants obvious instructions above us and I realize how much I detest the sterile world of airports). I lean against the black banister. Brooke passes me and continues walking. No breaks. I follow him.

“No, not a divorce,” he says. “I want new agreements.” He stops and looks straight into my eyes as people pass us on our left. “I’m tired of only getting bones.”

La Parisien is a small French cafe in Salt Lake City. Good food. Good wooden booths perfect for private conversations. It is a reliable establishment that does not impose itself on its clientele. We are among its loyal. I order chicken crepes. Brooke orders salmon. We sit across from one another in silence until our salads come.

I am not prepared for this. All I want to do is tell him about my walks in the Adirondacks, how glorious the autumn foliage was, how rich the light was, what birds I saw. I want to discuss ideas. I am too exhausted to talk about us.

The waitress brings a basket of garlic bread and places it on the table. My favorite.
“I want to dissolve our marriage,” Brooke says.
I look up at the waitress to see if she is listening to our conversation. She disappears.
“What do you mean?” I ask, breaking off a piece of bread.
“I mean I want to dissolve the marriage vows we made as kids, nineteen and twenty-three years old. They no longer work for me, and I don’t think they are working for you.”

I cannot eat the salad before me. The waitress returns to fill the water glasses.
I listen as my husband of fifteen years speaks eloquently of his yearning for a true partnership–where nothing is taken for granted.
“This is not about love,” he says. “This is about wanting more.”

I look at the blond, blue-eyed man seated across the table from me and feel tears welling. I suddenly realize how long it has been since I have really seen him, heard him, been present with him. Bones. Leftovers.
He is right.

“We need a ritual,” I say, half smiling. I know I can always make Brooke laugh.
He shakes his head with predictable cynicism, realizing somethings will never change.
“What could that be?” I wonder aloud.

Our entrees are served. I straighten my plate. The waitress asks if there is anything else we need. Brooke casually replies yes, but not that she can provide. She fills our water glasses once again.
I dream of various acts of dissolution but nothing seems appropriate.
“I think we should burn our marriage certificate,” Brooke says.

I say nothing–say nothing, for a long time. Images from our wedding on June 2, 1975, wash over me in waves: the Mormon Temple ceremony, my father, my mother, my grandparents, Brooke’s family, our innocence, a garland of wildflowers in my hair, the faith of our friends.

“But what about our history, our families who sat with us in that holy room as we took sacred vows and made covenants before God as we said yes–yes, to a shared and devoted life?”
“And we are saying yes again–” Brooke answers, “only this time, we are saying yes to something new within a context of experience.”
“Which is?”
“I’m not sure,” he says. “But I think it has to do with evolution and not being invisible. It’s about improvising each day.”

***

Dawn, October 14, 1990.
Brooke and I are sitting on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. The morning is ethereal with a faint mist slowly rising from the water. All the pastels of an abalone shell are shimmering above us as the sun has not yet peaked over the Wasatch Mountains.

We lay our marriage certificate on the salt flats of the receding lake. Brooke strikes a match and ignites one corner. I light the other. I watch it curl with a single flame, a black burn racing, erasing, my father’s name, John Henry Tempest, III. Brooke’s father’s signature, Rex Winder Williams, Jr. disappears simultaneously. We have no witnesses before God as the small fire sweeps across the white parchment.

“. . . were by me joined together in the holy bonds of matrimony for time and all eternity, according to the ordinance of God and the laws of the state of Utah . . . signed, S. Dilworth Young, an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints . . . “

The words vanish. The ornate border disappears, the engraved Gothic spires of the Salt Lake Temple with our names, Brooke Spencer Williams and Terry Lynn Tempest, go up in smoke as black ashes cartwheel across the sand.

Emotion swells in me. This piece of paper mattered. I look to Brooke for a similar response. His face shows sheer elation. It frightens me. I turn to the lake. Something catches my eye. Pink on blue, I squint with the morning glare. I squint again to be certain of what I see and then gently take Brooke’s hand and point to the flock of gulls feeding fifty yards ahead.

Brooke looks–crouches low and looks again. “A flamingo?”
I nod. “I can’t believe it either.” Pheonicopterus ruber, the Latin genus translates to ‘the Phoenix.’ “The firebird rising from the ashes.”
We stand. I take off my platinum wedding bands and hurl them into the Great Salt Lake. Brooke has brought an antique dinner plate, a souvenir from our wedding, and throws it like a skipping rock across the water. It shatters on contact.
We turn. We choose to follow the pink flamingo along the shore as it feeds on brine–a rose petal on the water.
Seldom or never does a marriage develop into an individual relationship smoothly without crisis. There is no birth of consciousness without pain. C. G. Jung

July 20, 1991
We have demolished our house. Total renovation. I stand in the middle of the living room with barefeet on concrete–remembering the contractor’s warning to never enter this workspace without shoes. Yet observing the wreckage around me (a gutted kitchen, broken and unpainted sheetrock, a border of carpet nails), I feel safe. I start to reimagine our home.

Where the sliding glass doors have been–I see a fireplace, a hearth, to warm the exposed winter days. A place to focus. Where a slit of glass has served as a window above the kitchen counter–I want to double its size and raise the sky, placing the sink down canyon with a view of he setting sun while I do dishes. I want a door that opens east for morning light. Wood floors. White walls. And floor to ceiling bookshelves in the study. I want things simple, spare, and clean. I want a house to protect my solitude like the marriage Rilke envisions, “. . . that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation . . “

Brooke enters the chaos with a roll of architechtural plans under his arm. My daydreaming ends. He is real, tangilbe, in body. No fantasies here. What I love about his man is his reliability and his insistence in shattering established forms, constructions of any kind.

As he unrolls the drawings on the floor, I realize the courage it takes to love, especially to love in a way that defies tradition–tearing down the walls, opening up the rooms, letting the wind blow through windows and doors to keep things fresh, and what a little fire in the center of a home can do to regenerate heat, the heat of a passionate and comfortable life.

Brooke and I go over the blueprints carefully. He is watching cost, mindful of our budget. I am watching aesthetics, aware that beauty is not optional. After rigorous discussions, we are not so far apart in our vision of what we want our home to be.

The painter walks in. We look up. Brooke lets the plans roll back on themselves.

“Mrs. Williams, you want white walls, Dover white, I believe? And I need to know if you have decided what color you want to paint the outside doors?”

“Why not white like the rest of the house?” Brooke interjects.

The painter looks at me. I look at my husband.

“I would like them red,” I say. “Red doors to protect and celebrate a love that is wild.”

A Letter to My Dad

My sister saves all the treasures of our family, so I call her our archivist. She handed me this letter I wrote to my dad when I had just turned 14. It tells so much about what was going on in our lives at that time (a big move from New England to Florida, and my father’s absence while taking the exam to practice medicine in Florida). It also shocked me to discover a part of myself I’d forgotten~ thoughtful, articulate, and full of compassion for those less fortunate than myself.

I was using Dad’s stationery from his alma mater, Dartmouth. I’m impressed by my letter writing form~ date,  indentations, beautiful handwriting. I’m still a letter-writer, and even though my handwriting has changed a LOT since then, people still admire it all the time. Don’t we teach that in school anymore? Maybe not.

Anyway, Dad, this letter is for you~ again ❤

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A LETTER TO MY DAD

May 26, 1965

Dear Dad,

Your letter was beautiful. Thank you for the advice.

You’ll never guess where I am right now: sitting on the lounge-chair outside on the terrace. We just had a cloud-burst and everything is cool and balmy. Would you believe it? It was up to 95 degrees this afternoon. We sure needed the rain.

I saw a movie last night with Mother, Sue and Brownie. It was called, “Nothing But a Man.” It was really fantastic. The whole movie was based on the life of an everyday, hard-working Negro family~ something like “A Raisin in the Sun.”

As I sat there, I saw how frightening it would be to be a Negro, to just walk out into the streets and know that people would look at you, and perhaps even threaten you. I saw how hopeless the life of a Negro was, even if he knew that he was not inferior, even if he knew that what he stood for was right, even when he stood up for it.

The main character in the movie was a young, thoughtful Negro who worked in a railroad gang. Though he stood up for his rights, his fellows submitted readily to the white man’s cruel hand and tongue, without a struggle. He was termed even by his fellows as a troublemaker because he would not be treated like dirt by the whites, but fought back. Thus, he lost many a job and his intelligent person longed for the freedom it deserved.

What made the movie so good was the truth in it, the reality and aliveness. It had no typical movie-like ending, where the hero lives happily ever after. It left you hanging, and it left no answer, because there isn’t one. It was sad. Dad, what can we do to give the Negroes hope and a reason to live? So many of the Negroes believe that they themselves are inferior, and they don’t even try. They drop out because there’s no sense in an education (they have reason to believe this) because as soon as they apply for a job, they’re usually taken last, for often whites have priority. Why is there this stupid prejudice? Will the whites and colored ever be equal?

I can’t write what I feel on paper very well, and if I did I would use up all my stationery, so I’ll stop.

I hear you’re coming home for several weeks. Will you be here for the auction? All of us here miss you so much ~ we can’t wait to see you. Do you have a tan? You ought to, what with all that sun. The plans for a new house are very exciting. This way we can plan it the way we want it. Boy! I don’t see how you can study such a long time. I don’t think I could stand it. I guess you’ll be glad when it’s all over.

Mommy’s having some people out to look at the house tomorrow, and we’re scurrying around to get the place cleaned up.

I just finished reading “The Last of the Mohicans.” It was terrific, but it was kind of long. Whew! 435 pages!

I’m having a going away party this Saturday, the 29th. Wish you could be here, Dad, so you could meet all my friends. Since we can’t have it in the barn (it’s filled with lumber), we’ve decided to have it outside on the terrace. I just hope it doesn’t rain!

Nancy got a 3rd place in the horseshow on Sunday. She was happy but she would’ve much preferred a first. Oh well, next time she’ll get one.

We’re here giving away tons and tons of things. It’s fantastic! The Bevens are already so loaded with “Gatlin Generosity” that each member of that less fortunate family has two overcoats for the winter and a choice of 20 different outfits for school and the like. It’s really funny, but it’s so much fun giving all these things to people who need them that you forget you’re sacrificing some of your favorite things.

Well, Mother is going out and she wants to mail this letter, so I’ve got to close my lengthy epistle with these words:

I love you and life is not the same without your presence. I would that I could spend my last days at Willowbrook with you here too, but it cannot be, so love and kisses until you come back home.

Your loving daughter,
Robin

PS I just had to enclose this masterpiece of Nancy’s. It’s really great! Look at number 2, the way she’s got the horse twisted around. It’s really funny that a kid so little would notice and be able to draw this position so well. She’s going to be a real artist some day.
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THE STUDENT WORKSHOP

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A LIFE STORY by Nataliya Chesnokova

I am 25 years old, and a PhD student at Russian State University for the Humanities. In Russia, a PhD student should get teaching practice, so since 2012 I have been teaching Korean History and the History of Russian Koreanistics (it has a long and interesting history, by the way!). I cannot say I am talented but I am stubborn, and people often call me “a tank in a skirt.”

Since I started teaching, I wanted my students to participate in conferences and workshops here in Moscow but it turned out to be difficult due to the lack of such activities. I saw enthusiasm in the eyes of my students and felt the necessity of speech practice and scientific communication, so I decided to organize a student workshop by myself. My goal was to organize a Korean studies workshop which could be both useful and comfortable for students to participate in. The ideal workshop in my mind was a combination of an informal meeting along with advice from famous scholars.

At first everything went quite well. Korea Foundation kindly agreed to be our sponsor, and I was very proud of that. But then, when I tried to find out how to print out brochures with the participants’ reports I met the first and hardest obstacle: paperwork… Pfff! I had no clue that I need to write tons of papers in which I ask, explain, insist, undertake and promise. What was the most stressful was that I had no idea where to start or who to ask for help. I felt like a kid standing in the middle of nowhere. Terra incognita, no map, no road, millions of questions without answers – that was the entire luggage I had.

So soon I had to face the situation – no one could help me because organizing a workshop in two months before the actual date seemed to be impossible. But I am a “tank in a skirt” after all, so I did not give up my dream or my goal. By chance I met a woman who answered, “Sure, why not?” to my question, “Is it possible to organize a workshop in two months?” Those two months before the workshop were really stressful. I had to calculate the budget, order meals, book an auditorium, video and sound equipment, draw a picture for a banner and then order the banner, invite guests, make programs, and so on. As my colleagues said, “It was a start from minus one.” Right now I cannot remember every step I had to take. It seems they were all taken together and at once. But certainly, the first thing I had to accomplish was the paperwork.

Believe me, I hate paperwork, and still I had to rewrite tons of documents again and again until every paper was signed and taken. I kept telling myself that I was planning a good thing and it was worth doing all this crazy mess and so I went on. There was no free suitable auditorium on the date I wanted to hold the workshop, so I had to move it to the 25th of May 2013, Saturday. I booked the room and the needed equipment, placed advertisement on different websites, called and emailed Korean studies students and lecturers. As soon as I understood that approximately 40-50 people would take part in the workshop, I ordered meals and booked tables in our university cafeteria. Then I made programs of the workshop and the brochures with the participants’ reports. The woman who had said, “Sure, why not?” helped me to get the programs and brochures done without any cost, along with some souvenirs with the RSUH logo to give to the participants. The hardest part was the banner because I cannot draw at all. If I draw a mouse it looks like a tiger, and a tiger looks like a table. Yes, it is pathetic. Two evenings later I managed to draw something more or less pretty and suitable for the banner. Then I emailed the picture to several companies comparing their prices and finally agreed to order from one of them.

On the 25th of May I was the most nervous person in the whole world. Or at least the most nervous girl in Moscow.

And still it was a success. Not a success to be written in huge letters, but still it was an achievement. There were 16 spokespersons, one open lecture and more than 50 guests from different universities that came to hear the reports. One spokesperson even came from Saint-Petersburg to participate in the workshop! Two of my students also made reports. I was happy enjoying the moment when a new-born baby – the workshop – finally opened its eyes and breathed fresh air. It was alive.

Meals, water and papers – everything was as much as it was needed. My students, friends and colleagues came to help and to listen to the reports too. They helped a lot, and I do not know how I would have been able to control the workshop process without them. But what was even more important was belief. My older and younger colleagues, the Korea Foundation, friends, students and even unknown guests came to support “the First Workshop of the Korean Studies at Russian State University for the Humanities,” as I named it. They believed in me and with this belief I was able to believe in myself as well.

This year, in 2014, I organized the 2nd workshop and it was much easier. Next year I am going to do a workshop for students not only from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg but from Novosibirsk too. Seeing and listening to students speak more and more freely and confidently I am proud both of them and myself. They are able to get a piece of advice from famous lecturers, demonstrate their research, rehearse their speech, and present without any fear. My aim is to make this process comfortable.

If sometimes when I am stressed I think that no one needs what I am doing, I remember the shining eyes of my students who are presenting their papers in front of an audience and who are catching every word that I am saying. It gives me strength.

 

Unconditional Love in Practice

Enrique2

LIFE STORY by Enrique Ledesma

A few years ago a person from another country was sent to a church centre where I was the director. I was advised that she had some deep emotional difficulties trusting anyone and attacked those who tried to get near her. It was not long before I experienced that first hand, with her outbursts and accusations hurled at me almost daily. I was a bit shocked at first and felt deeply challenged but I was determined to see if I could help her somehow. I had a goal that no matter what, I would not give up on her. Personally, I wanted to see if unconditional love was as powerful as I held it to be and whether I could actually practice it and lose my ego for the sake of someone else.

I prayed for her daily, thanking God for her existence and asked to be a vehicle of love and compassion. I prepared tea and cookies daily and offered them to her though she refused to accept anything from me or even to talk with me. She would speak to me through others in the third person only and usually with insults that no one wanted to translate after a while. After a few months, one day, her angry demeanour, without any explanation, suddenly changed and she smiled and accepted the tea and we sat down for hours talking. As I listened to her struggles growing up, I felt tremendous empathy and respect for her. In counselling it is called transference when someone unconsciously transfers or  projects certain feelings on to you that stem from their early attachment care givers. Positive change can occur when we understand what is happening and can express warmth and care in a loving way, healing and reversing past problems.