Big Ben

Whilst living in England, I made frequent telephone calls home to my mother. Growing up with her, as I had – she’d always known how much England–and how much the idea of living in England–meant to me. She asked questions, often, about my life there. What I was doing . . . what the boys and I were experiencing and if an English life was everything that I had expected it to be.

English: Close-up photograph of Big Ben clock ...

Close-up photograph of Big Ben clock tower, London, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of those conversations, in particular, was my describing to her what it had been like to go into London, my very first time.

I had arrived in London via Paddington Station and had taken the Tube to the Westminster station on the Thames, just across from the London Eye. After I snapped a few photos of the Eye – I told her that I went up the stairs to street level. I had been told that I would see Big Ben at the top of the stairs, on my right hand side.

I reached street level and looked across the street. I looked up and saw Big Ben, in all of its grandeur and glory . . . just as the bells began to peal. I told my Mom that I hadn’t realized that Big Ben was so pretty or so immense. Nor had I ever imagined that it would sound so beautiful. She said that she wished she had been there and I told her that I would take her there when she was due to visit, a few months later. It would be the first time that she would be visiting England. I was very excited for her to arrive and experience everything that I was experiencing, first hand.

My mother is partially deaf. Her hearing aid was being replaced with a stronger, more amplified aid. She expressed concern that she would not be able to hear the Great Bell if her hearing aid didn’t arrive to her by the time of her trip out to see me. In the months that followed I asked, during our every conversation, if her hearing aid had arrived. By the time of her trip out to see us, it still hadn’t arrived. I had wondered, and worried, about how much of England she was going to be able to experience without being able to hear very well.

My mother arrived, as planned. It was with some concern on my part with regard to the subject of her hearing that I took my mother to London. We took a double-deck bus tour, we went to the Tower of London and we took a barge cruise down the Thames. We disembarked at the Westminster station and I looked at my watch. It was 3:58. I had just enough time to get her up the stairs for her to be able to see, and hopefully hear, Big Ben at 4:00.

I grabbed her hand and leaned close to her ear saying loudly “We have to run up those stairs . . . I want you to see Big Ben!” She nodded, smiled and we RAN. We got to the street and stopped short. She looked up at the clock tower and asked “But why did we have to run?” I looked at her and tilted my head toward the clock and said “Listen, Mom.” as Big Ben began to chime.

I was watching her face, holding my breath, waiting to learn if she could hear the bells when she began to cry.

From the look on her face – I had my answer. I began to cry.

She nodded, several times, still looking at Big Ben.

Then she whispered to me:

“I hear them, Cari . . . I hear the bells.”

Reflections on Camelot

Let her die, your life is over; Let her live, your life’s a fraud.
~ Mordred to King Arthur in Camelot ~

Tonight I have been thinking of the 1967 movie “Camelot” Starring Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave.
(Screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner and Music by Frederick Loewe)

Now ~
Call me crazy if you want to ~ but I am going to think on this as a correct assessment of the matter at hand in the movie. The words that have inspired this journal entry (and that are found as my opening to this entry) are the words uttered by Mordred to King Arthur as Guenevere’s fate is being determined. Here is the part that you might find a tad “off.” I think that Alan Jay Lerner just found a fancy way to say:

“You know what, Arthur? No matter what you decide to do in this mess ~ you are so screwed!”

Yep. I think that is a fitting modern interpretation of that line. It is with some interest that I will note that it is during this scene in the movie that we first see King Arthur as a character-flawed human. A human who is hurting and who has no ability to stop the pain that has become his life. Tonight, as I have gone about the daily details that seemingly consume my life, my mind has been turning over Arthur’s plight… which, in some ways, has become a plight that we all share… because we have all faced moments in our lives when we have had to make the hard decision. One day we realize that it is through those harsh moments that can break us that gives us the chance for a new life that is improved and more authentic than how it had been lived before ~ and only upon that realization can we then truly learn to live a life of our own devising.

Humans can only act on what they feel is best in a situation ~ and then keep their fingers crossed that they then made the “right” decision. In the case of King Arthur ~ his choice was either to condemn Guenevere to death for committing acts of treason against the King and England ~ or pardon her from her sentence and have his life’s dreams and ambitions made a mockery of. He ultimately made the choice that as the King of England he had to stand by the jury’s decision to have Guenevere, the love of his life, executed. Of course his Plan B was hoping against hope that Lancelot would show up and save Guenevere before the execution could be carried out. Again, this is a similarity that some of us have had experience with. We make a decision and then close our eyes hoping that if it is the wrong decision ~ there will be, at least, a safety net.

We carry within us the best possible safety net at all times ~ if we will only choose to utilize it. It is precisely during emotional times and tough decisions that we should choose to unfurl our safety net that goes by the name of Faith. Faith is the knowing that after weighing all of the options and choices available to you and proceeding with your plan ~ that everything will turn out how it is supposed to. You have done all you can do in your situation ~ you have threatened, worried, cajoled, cried, screamed and have thought through every possible outcome. The only thing remaining is that you have to let go and allow your fear to become Faith.

Oftentimes as we are working through our problems we come to a fork in the road and we have a choice to make ~ we can share what is on our mind and in our heart and risk judgement or ridicule but we can also opt in at the same time to share our pain and hope to gain some wisdom from another persons life experience ~ Or we can choose to remain silent. Too often we decide to continue to shoulder our burdens because of our fear of what other people will think or say keeps us locked inside with our own pain… unwilling to take a chance at sharing because we don’t want to be judged. It is interesting also that if we allow ourselves to open up and to share with people we really allow those people to get to know who we are ~ without the masks on us that family or society has seen that we have well in place, at all times. During these times of sharing we expose our humanness and run the risk of someone not understanding us or our thought process. It is during those times that we have to realize that people can only counsel on what they have mirrored from their own lives… their life experience is not our life experience ~ so their choices will not necessarily be our choices. At least in the sharing of our authentic selves ~ that person, or those people, knows us for who we really are. In that moment we are vulnerable ~ and, if nothing else, it is during that moment that they have something in common with us. Vulnerability. Not many of us want it… but we all have it.

I am quite a fan of movies ~ so whilst writing this journal entry another line has come to me from another movie that I quite like and feel a kinship with. The line is from “The Bridges of Madison County” and it is a sentiment which sort of defines the overall theme of the movie:

“What becomes more and more important, is to be known ~ known for all that you were during this brief stay. How sad it seems to me, to leave this earth without those you love the most ever really knowing who you were.”

During times of trial I have sat with the uncomfortable knowledge that I have not shared with very many people who I am as a person. I have always been the person that people have sought counsel from ~ but I have not shared elements of my own life or matters of a personal nature very often. A year ago this past February I made some rather large life changes that I felt were necessary not only for myself as a person ~ but also to begin to foster a peace within my soul. I had always done what other people wanted me to do… and that I was living in a manner which was not authentic . . . and until recently – that didn’t bother me at all. Until I hit a crossroad where I wanted something more. I wanted to be happy and to live a life on my own terms. I have now come to the conclusion that I need to add to that newer version of me a willingness to share who I am with the people who are close to me. I do think that it would be sad to leave this earth without people having a clue of who I was as a person ~ or to know what I believed in with all of my heart and soul…

Sometimes we do face a decision that we feel is a no-win situation, either way. We will feel like King Arthur did as he was looking at his choices and weighing the woman that he would have done anything for against the law that he had spent his lifetime creating and nurturing. Either decision his life would be adversely affected ~ and, in the end, he made the only decision that he was able to make. He followed his heart and then with his whole heart began hoping that Lancelot would rescue Guenevere.

He put Faith in the knowledge that everything would be okay the moment he determined that he could not live a life that would be a fraud.

And sometimes that is what it all comes down to… making a decision that you know authenticates who you are as a person ~ versus making the decision that would create an inauthentic life.

This is the only life we will have ~ so we need to make it a life that is worthwhile…
and we should strive to make it a life that is filled with truth, beauty, freedom and above all things, love.

(All this talk about movies ~ I had to throw in something from “Moulin Rouge”, too…)