The first important choice I remember being offered was my mother’s question “Would you girls like to go live somewhere where it’s sunny all year round?” That’s how my mother let us know we were moving from England. I was 5 at the time and my sisters and I enthusiastically agreed that sun would be a good thing. Now I smile and think, “That was slick marketing lady!” My Dad had been looking for a job outside London as the commute to and from Kent was getting to be a bit of a drag with 3 young kids at home. Apparently St. Lucia fitted the bill best and well, commuting to St. Lucia was never an option of course so plans were set in motion for the Jennings Clark clan to head off to the perennially sunny West Indies.
Sometime after our happy agreement we set off –That trip gave me my first two experiences that stopped me from doing something – spaghetti bolognese that came back up in the gas station on the way to the ferry; to this day that’s the one and only pasta I don’t like. The other was being tossed by a big swell nearly out of the little swimming pool of the Geest banana boat we took to make our Atlantic crossing – I’d go in the water but unlike my sisters and friends, didn’t actually swim until 4 years later.
It’s all part of growing up, we learn that something is dangerous or downright unpleasant by the result we get from trying it– whether it be a good slap from a parent or a belly ache from actually eating the mud pies we made under the house…but sometimes I guess the signal is overblown by the trauma of the moment. Maybe we just got too much adrenaline pumping or people laughed when they should have comforted or they comforted too much when they should have laughed a little more and what should have been just a little lesson becomes a blockage we can’t think past.
I’m pretty convinced now that being able to put “failures” and traumas into perspective is a vital tool for success and happiness. My very earliest memory is of suddenly coming out of my childish reverie to realize I was totally alone in the pre-school playground with huge grey skies full of thunder above. I’d been fascinated by the storm – happily captivated by the lightning and thunder until the schoolmistress came running out to rescue me. I think she laughed a little, but I’ve never been the slightest bit afraid of storms, so how come I’m still afraid of a little bolognese?
I happened across a BBC news item about gadgets to help us remember – now I could do with one of them; but the closing line was what’s important here I think, “…an underrated human skill – forgetting.” Sometimes we need to let go of memories that aren’t useful to us – they just keep us from growing, enjoying, happily being just who we are. The trick is being able to hold on to the good ones, finding ways to stimulate ourselves and our kids into holding on to those, and when the going gets bad, to practice the invaluable skill of being able to pick up, look at what happened, file it and shake it off.
Sunset Somewhere in the World Liz Jennings Clark
Attitude of the Alphabet today is: J is for Joy