"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Thursday, 7 July 2011

where did you go to school?

I was exhausted last night after having a day's leave and spending the day in the country.  I went to bed too early and that is probably why I woke up at 3.30 this morning and could not get back to sleep.  I tossed and turned and should have got up but it was too cold.  So I lay there thinking, composing and wondering about all kinds of things and, in particular, if there was anything I could do, write or say to my family and friends who are going through a rough time at the moment that would help them. I have friends who are ill, friends whose parents are ill and in frail care;  friends and family who are struggling with their relationships, friends whose children are unhappy, family with friends far away who are homesick (I hope I am not sounding like a preacher).  Things always seem so dark in the dead of the night (and not because the lights are off).  The post that I had written for today seemed so pathetically trivial compared to what people I love are going through that when I eventually got out of bed I remembered something that I had cut out ages ago that I could perhaps use today by the author Oriah Mountain Dreamer (nice name).  She wrote a book based on her poem called The Invitation.  I have not read the book - it looks a bit like it could come straight out of Oprah's book club - so please don't judge me if you have read it and it is rubbish.  She apparently wrote this poem after spending an evening at a dinner party where people asked the usual Where did you study?  Do you know Mary X?  Where do you know her from? The kind of questions that we are all guilty of asking.  Do we do it because when we meet someone for the first time we are so keen to find a link as to why we should or should not like this person that a crossfire of questioning is the only way to establish any link?  

"OK, stop waffling Jenny and give us the poem":-

The Invitation
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Canadian Teacher and Author
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after a night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments

So instead of asking what school someone went to, why not ask a more meaningful question?  A question that does not have a right or wrong answer but will tell you something deeper about the person:-

What about:-

1.  "Hi, I am Jenny.  What do you do if you wake up on a Saturday morning and it is raining?"
2.  "Hi, I am Jenny.  How old would you like to be if you did not know how old you were?
3.  "Hi, I am Jenny.  Would you break the law to save a loved one?"
4.  "Hi, I am Jenny.  Would you rather be happy and stupid or depressed and a genius?"
5.  "Hi, I am Jenny.  What gives you butterflies in your tummy?"
7.  "Hi, I am Jenny.  If you could choose either to forget all your old memories or not be able to make new memories, what would you choose?"

All good and well but I think I would be labelled "Seriously Strange" (if I am not already) and I would probably struggle to get another invitation to a party.   Perhaps however these are not bad questions to ask those that you are close to.  You may be even be surprised.  Sometimes asking the right question is the answer.


  1. Lovely post Jen! Someone gave me that book after Mom died and I really enjoyed it! thought provoking. Lots of love xx

  2. Im so glad you woke up at 3:30 and wrote this!!

  3. Shit she's finally losing it.

    "She's the cat's mother".