Inspiration from others, 2

From The hand that first held mine, by Maggie O’Farrell

The women we become after children.

We change shape, we buy low-heeled shoes, we cut off our long hair.  We begin to carry in our bags half-eaten rusks, a small tractor, a shred of beloved fabric, a plastic doll.  We lose muscle tone, sleep, reason, perspective.  Our hearts begin to live outside our bodies.  They breathe, they eat, they crawl and – look! – they walk, they begin to speak to us.  We learn that we must sometimes walk an inch at a time, to stop and examine every stick, every stone, every squashed tin along the way.  We get used to not getting where we were going.  We learn to darn, perhaps to cook, to patch the knees of dungarees.  We get used to living with a love that suffuses us, suffocates us, blinds us, controls us.  We live.  We contemplate our bodies, our stretched skin, those threads of silver around our brows, our strangely enlarged feet.  We learn to look less in the mirror.  We put our dry-clean-only clothes to the back of the wardrobe.  Eventually, we throw them away.  We school ourselves to stop saying ‘shit’ and ‘damn’ and learn to say ‘my goodness’ and ‘heavens above’.  We give up smoking, we colour our hair, we search the vistas of parks, swimming pools, libraries, cafes for other of our kind.  We know each other by our pushchairs, our sleepless gazes, the beakers we carry.  We learn how to cool a fever, ease a cough, the four indicators of meningitis, that one must sometimes push a swing for two hours.  We no longer tolerate delayed buses, fighting in the street, smoking in restaurants, sex after midnight, inconsistency, laziness, being cold.  We contemplate younger women as they pass us in the street, with their cigarettes, their makeup, their tight-seamed dresses, their tiny handbags, their smooth, washed hair, and we turn away, we put down our heads, we keep pushing the pram up the hill.

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Even as a child, I would study the unexpected turns in my life and try to find the lessons in them. I am nothing if not reflective. As an American citizen raised in Sao Paulo, Dallas and Madrid, I am a classic adult TCK*. Perspective is key, and I look at everything through multiple lenses. It used to make my son crazy when as a boy he would press me for a firm stance on something and I would often answer “well, that depends…” I am a thinker and learner, writer and story teller, counselor and coach. After almost of quarter of a century in k12 education, I am now on sabbatical, taking some time to breathe, reflect, dream, explore life’s many gifts, and write. When I was around 8 years old, I starting writing down my dreams and these turned into stories. I have been blogging since 2010, have published several articles about the need for change in how and what young people learn, and I am currently working on a couple of manuscripts. One is a collection of motivational essays for women leaders in international education which I am co-authoring with my friend and colleague, Debbie Lane. The other is more of a memoir, a personal story about love, sacrifice, and hope. Hope and gratitude are common themes in my writing, my work, and in my life in general. Everyone has a story to tell. Thank you for taking some time to explore mine. I hope you’ll come back. *A TCK is a third-culture kid, someone who has spent a significant number of their formative years outside of their passport country. It is an experience that typically has a profound impact on the development of self and identity.

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