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Monday, November 01, 2010

To Light a Candle

Many years ago ,as a teenager, I read all of the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of Russia's most brilliant writers. One which impacted upon me very powerfully was "Cancer Ward". I have never forgotten the old Russian proverb that summed up the book for me:

"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness"

It is my hope that when I leave this earth that those who remember me will see a candle whose flame chased away a little of the darkness. Life is filled with beauty and love but sometimes we need a friend to light that candle so we can see it. In telling my story and showing the positive aspects I have chosen to take out of it, I hope that I can be that friend. 

When I read Cancer Ward, I never dreamed that one day that curse would reach out and strike me. There was little history of cancer in my family and what there was seemed to be the cancers of old age. I watched my beloved grandmother die of bladder cancer at the age of 79. I was just turning 16 and it was a pivotal event in my life. I was so determined that no one should suffer as she did that I switched from studying arts to focusing on science. I had always wanted to be a writer but now I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to save lives. 

That was not to be. I had left the change too late and with little aptitude for mathematics, the stretch into A Level Physics proved to be too far for me. Troubled people had always turned to me for help and I began to wonder if there was something I could do to  heal the mind if I could not heal the body. I studied Psychology at University but when I graduated I realised that I was too young and inexperienced to make this my profession. I was also unable to detach myself sufficiently from the empathic connection to those in need and I recognised that I needed to be able to do that or I would find myself in the deep waters of the mind without the strength to reach the shore. 

My father offered me a position in our family company and somehow the years drifted by in the companionship and challenge of working with my siblings. I learned so much in those twenty five years. I like to think that I also gave much. I worked my way through various management positions until I created our People Development Department, where we used leading edge training in personal development.This was the most fulfilling, exciting and stimulating period of my career but that is a story, or perhaps several stories, for other days. 

At the age of 50, I finally began my work as a therapist. It had only taken 25 years to finally judge myself worldly wise and emotionally resilient enough to help others through the mine fields of the mind. It is my joy and it is my calling. It has been a long time coming but each year has brought me the experience and the emotional maturity essential to this work. 

So here I am today doing the work I love and yet I sense there is a further purpose to this life. It lies in the alliance of those two callings from long ago, the calling to heal and the calling to write. When I work with individuals, I reach into that one mind. The work we do helps that person and those close to them. When I write, I can reach many minds. I can be a candle that lights the darkness not for one alone but for many. 

I have always been an inconsistent writer. Like the butterfly, I have been easily distracted by the next beautiful flower. In this journey through cancer and its aftermath, I have learned a new inner discipline. It has been a long time coming. The prospect of death, of dying with the music still trapped inside me, is a spur to action. 

Someone asked me recently if coming close to death had changed me. I told him that in some ways it had but in others it had not. Near death experiences do not suddenly transform you. You still have all the same weaknesses and flaws but what you do have is the knowledge of just how strong and courageous you truly are. You have come to the edge and you have flown. 

This is the change. I no longer find it acceptable to drift in the same comfortably seductive sea of what I know and what I have always done.  In opening myself to change, I hope to be a little light in a naughty world and be of some encouragement to others to change what needs to be changed. 

Do not wait for the call of death to bring you to this realisation. Wake up and live.  What music stirs inside you fighting to be heard? Let the world hear it. Sing your song. 

On these pages you will hear my voice singing my music out into the world. It will sometimes be discordant, sometimes painful to the ear, but occasionally it may strike a chord, When it does... let the magic begin.


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