Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

Writing here in bed just as the old year is closing.
Friends, may 2011 be a year of blessing for you.

Just now many threads and strands of thought are muddling round in my head.  I'm working on a novel with some elusive and complex ideas in that has delicate and not-so-easy passages of interaction and dialogue to write.  And I've been asked for some complicated editorial bits and pieces to lay some inconsistencies straight in the fiction series I've been writing.  Christmas and New Year have meant a difference in household routines etc, and family time and encounters, that all take up head-space.  So my thoughts are a bit muddled and random...

One of the things I've been thinking about is the whole concept of personal history.  I wish you could have been a fly on the wall to behold an interaction between me and my Badger yesterday; it would have been very educational for you.

You know how there are some things that run in families, or in a life, things with a History?  A bit like old Aunt Ada Doom, in Cold Comfort Farm, who had to have her own way all the time because she Saw Something Nasty In The Woodshed when she was a little girl?  So those things run like a tape that comes to dominate relationships and trains of thought and likely outcomes to conversations.

Well, a sequence of events set me off on one of those old tapes.  A moment passed me by like a snake slipping quiet under the grass into the bushes, that I could have caught if I'd been alert enough, but I let it stay in my peripheral vision and didn't lay hold of it.  That moment said to me, "You know, you don't need this. You don't need to do this."  But in the interest of being honest or just unwilling to let things go, I set off on old complaints and clung doggedly to old hurts and injustices. 

In the past, it would have escalated into a row, and me and Badger would both have been defensive and said hurtful things; but we didn't.  He heard me, and he understood, and asked me what I wanted him to do that would make things better; and I couldn't think of anything.  And we stayed in a place that was honest and loving, although fairly painful.

This was all about old family stuff, difficult things from the early days of our marriage.

And then this morning, it came to my mind what Carlos Castaneda had said about personal history in his book Journey To Ixtlan:
I have no routines or personal history. One day I found out that they were no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped them. One must have the desire to drop them and then one must proceed harmoniously to chop them off, little by little. If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts. It is best to erase all personal history because that makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.

Now of course if you really have no personal history at all you might have trouble finding your way home or remembering which brand of muesli you might want to buy in order to enjoy your breakfast tomorrow morning.  But that isn't what he means.  He's talking about letting go of the domination of relational tangles, allowing life to slip through your fingers like the water of a mountain stream, clear and free, unhindered and wild, like it was mean to be - not snarled up with recriminations and grudges and old resentments.

And I realised in a visceral way that hadn't come to me before (though I'd known it as an intellectual proposition) that I could let go of the painful history that had soured and poisoned some of what we'd passed through.  I didn't need it any more.  To retain it or let go of it was my choice.

So at the crossroads between the decade that has just gone and the one just beginning, I think I prefer the road to freedom.  Goodbye to all that.  I cut the ties of this pack I've been carrying, and it can roll down the hill into the sea.  Eternity is only ever approached through the doorway of now.  Eternal life has no yesterday and no tomorrow.  The same is true of joy.  The only access to joy is in the present reality of now.  Nursing old grievances, the things that someone said and did, whether they meant to or not, is incompatible with joy.

So as I step into 2011 I am choosing to leave my personal history behind. It won't be needed on the journey.  If I'm made in the image of God as Jesus said, then I am what I am, and the past has no dominion and isn't even very interesting either.

Peace.  Simplicity.  Friendship.  Kindness.  Understanding.   These are what I choose. 

God bless you in 2011.  May it bring much laughter and many happy times.  May you remember not to take yourself too seriously.  May you have the space and the love you need to be the person you were meant to be.  may you be happy.  May you be whole.  May you be free.



seekingmyLord said...

Thank for sharing this. Quite a blessing for me.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Happy New Year, seekingmylord!

Linda said...

Happy New Year Ember. If you were here in NY's eve you would not have had blankets on lol.

Linda said...

The personal history thing is interesting. Particularly as facebook is now bringing us more back to our personal history. I think I have got rid of some of mine, so would like to hear more about what he meant, to see if I took it the same way as you did.

Pen Wilcock said...

His chapter about it is here Linda:

I feel a degree of ambivalence about it as a total concept. It reads a little bit like a power game, perhaps. I think I have a commitment to allowing myself to be known, to a certain extent. One thing in it he writes, that I know is not true:
'"Your father knows everything about you," he said. "So he has you all figured out."'

I am very like my father, and in a sense we knew each other. In another sense we knew each other very little. I could be surprised on this, but I think my father hardly knew me at all.
When a writer misses the target by mile like that (because I think many families are collections of opaque strangers)I become suspicious of the rest he has to offer.
Even so, I am intrigued by this chapter, and find the concept very helpful to apply - that the events and relationships of the past become settled and binding, so that if I want to become free I have to settle for being new with the new day.
It's interesting that in describing the faithfulnss of God, the Bible says His mercies are 'new every morning' - so He is always to be trusted but never bound by habit, never 'the same old thing'. Each moment with God is full of infinite possibility.
That's what I'm looking for.

Ellen said...

Happy New Year Ember! I am very happy to have found (or rather to have been steered to) your blog. It touches my soul.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Ellen - Happy New Year!

Julie B. said...

Peace, contentment, joy, hope, kindness, health and love to you in 2011, Ember. And to all those you love.

My verification word is hersit.


River said...

Ember.. you and your writing has been a blessing to me this year..

I wish you and yours the best in 2011!

Happy New Year

Denise in a very rainy Tennessee

mamaof3 said...

Oh Ember thank you for this post! For years I have been having the worst time getting past this relationship that I had before i got married. It was particularly painful and it took years to heal from that. But for some reason I have still been plagued by dreams of this relationship. Hopefully now I can finally let go and just live for now and concentrate on improving my relationship with Christ. Oh btw I ordered your book this morning and I can't wait to get it. Can you tell me when your new book comes out?

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Julie - hersitting here waving to you! Happy New Year xxx

Hi Denise - Happy New Year! May the sun shine on you before too long :0)

Hi Kate - Happy New Year! Glad my ruminations helped :0) My book 'The Road of Blessing' is out this month in the UK. If you look for it at (rather than there's a search-inside function there so you can have a taster, and it's available for pre-order on both Amazon websites, so you would get it ASAP that way. If you look down the right-hand sidebar on this blog, under the heading 'My books', and click on 'The Road of Blessing', it will take you to the site.
So far the e-books rights are not yet resolved, so it will only be available in paper format for now.

Ganeida said...

I think there is a knack to learning to live with our histories. To ditch them completely is to deny how we came to be who we are. But to acknowledge not all aspects were healthy & grow through that to something stronger & freer, that is the knack. What definitely isn't healthy is wallowing in negative memories & bitterness of spirit.

I thank God for brining you in to my life. You have been such a blessing. May you have a very blessed year. ♥

Pen Wilcock said...

May 2011 be a year of peace and blessing for you Ganeida, and for all your family too xxx

Linda said...

Thank you. Still thinking about it, so I will have something to go on with.

Linda said...

I like this: "Little by little you must create a fog around yourself" I have been doing that. I like the idea of rewriting my personal history better.

Some people may be rewriting it already. I came across this concept from I thin the Australian Women's Weekly in an article last year? about our former prime minister's ex-wire Hazel Hawke. Her daughter spoke out because she felt her step-mother was rewriting her mother's personal history.

Interestingly I haven't done much family history in the past decade like I had done before.

Linda said...

'"Your father knows everything about you," he said. "So he has you all figured out."'

I had the same thoughts about you on this, but I think it was hinting at something else.

Linda said...

This article is amazing Ember. Thank you for sharing it. I was surprised by the word lying, but yes it is. I realised that about myself awhile ago, that I do subterfuge. It is a defence I worked out as a child. A survival tactic.

Pigeon holes are awful, but I am afraid people get put in them anyway. I fudge the edges not to get into any pigeon holes, especially being Australian with less population.

And I have found at times if I start acting like that my parent does get upset like the writer. So I go along with them join in in what they are saying, which is also lying, sadly.

Linda said...

I think in essence it is like what you said about protection, living a good life gives protection. So does being vague. People assume for example that because I have five children for example they can get to me through that. They use a stereotype of the devoted mother and try that tactic.

Linda said...

During our Christmas lunch I came home upset because I had actually said something instead of going along (lying in effect). Not restating my personal history that they say around, hopefully not actually believe. It had the same effect as in the story. I probably said that already, sorry.

Linda said...

Two of my children have ways of dealing with the small country town we live in. One child who is asked something like would he promise to do something will say: yes, maybe, hotdog.

The other child, when asked what another member of the family is doing or where they are, will answer either "dead" or "China". It covers all things. It is lighthearted and they don't seem to offend their friends.

I on the other hand in dealing with say Christmas dinner, would get a reaction like the one in Journey to Ixtlan.

At this dinner or lunch, I was told something about my 17 year old daughter who had been staying a week. My daughter's personal history is that she is shy because when she talks she talks quietly. I was told that she sings very loudly in the shower. She does, I know this, her lungs are quite good. She actually sings and speaks in church but that is in the foggy section. The thing I didn't say to the teacher who predicted doom in her final year in oral tests. I feel that would lead me to the road of unblessing lol.

I was very unsure what I was to say to someone who said my daughter is quiet but sings loudly in the shower.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thanks for all your thoughts Linda.

I have reservations about Carlos Castenada's views for myself, but wanted to credit him for having sparked off a line of thought for me with his writing.

I don't think I want to do as he suggests and make myself opaque and inaccessible. I like George Fox's 'Let your life preach' and Gandhi's 'My life is my message' - which implies that a personal history is useful.

But what I wanted to do was select and delete certain passages of my history that had ossified into grudges in my mind and no longer served me well.

And I also see a value in not arguing with people or seeking to justify myself; just being. Let them think what they think and see me how they see me, and not feel obliged to correct and amend and define.

More silence, is the remedy in my own life, I think, for many misapprehensions and much tedious over-discussion.

Jackie said...

A thought provoking post - and it provoked thought, so I quoted you today, I hope you don't mind!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Jackie! Indeed you are welcome to quote from here! Wiltshire, eh? Nice to meet you! Wiltshire is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. It sounds as though you are walking in a good way down there! Blessings on your 2011 :0)

Jackie said...

Thank you! You can read the post here
if you would like.

Blessings to you too, I just found your blog and love it - you speak to so many of our beliefs and dreams.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thanks Jackie - yes, I found my way to your site and read your post :0)

Linda said...

Thanks Jackie I couldn't find it.