By this point in the year I’d planned, I would just have finished twelve weeks at L’Abri in Switzerland. The first draft of the manuscript for my bestseller would be complete, and all my philosophical quandaries would have been solved. I’d have a sparkling collection of new friends and, thanks to my diligence in study, finally some room for new additions to my reading list.
Plans change. Please know I’m being cheeky; I recognise with deep thankfulness that I’ve been shielded from the worst of COVID. And I’m not at all certain the bestseller would’ve come together as easily as that… 😉
But as many people have pointed out, there are valuable lessons, both big and small, to be learned in a time like this. One of the things I’ve learned is that video conferencing with family and friends makes me pay closer attention to the people I’m speaking with. Zoom has made me a better listener and a better conversationalist.
My sister, who’s living in London, initiated a weekly chat for the extended family spread across England, France and various parts of Australia. Quite apart from the potential for tech issues, of which there haven’t been that many, I was nervous about how it would go. These things can be notoriously awkward. I’m delighted to say that the format has definitely made us better at talking to each other. Each person is deliberately included in the conversation, invited to share through thoughtful questions and moments of ‘I thought of you this week when…’. Successes receive cheers and applause (real or emoji); concerns are worked through, with promises made to follow up on how things pan out. We also laugh a lot.
Personally, I’ve been touched by my family’s encouragement about my writing. My relatives are all exceptionally clever, highly-educated, wide reading kids and grownups… And yet they like what I write! Knowing that people I love enjoy the experience of reading my words has propelled me onwards on the days when I don’t feel like doing the work required to become a better writer.
The ultimate compliment came from my cousin, Jeffrey. He’s 10. He reads my blog and, at my suggestion, wrote me a very persuasive letter as to why he should be featured. He also drew me a picture: a collage of small drawings with captions in various typographic styles. One of these captions keeps coming back to me: ‘We don’t know what’s ahead of us but let’s hope it’s good’. These words appear beside a bubble-writing question mark, alongside pictures of a hot air balloon and a giant diamond.
We don’t know what’s ahead of us but let’s hope it’s good.
Jeff, I know I’m annoying when I tease you about your World Fact Book trivia and your constant rehearsal of factoids and statistics about all manner of things, but I’m serious when I say that this is profound. And it means a lot to me that you wrote it in your letter.
You see, uncertainty and hope are two things I think about a lot – especially during the hours of driving I’ve been doing recently. I think everyone thinks about them at some point. In life, uncertainty is inevitable (isn’t that ironic?). When you look around, this sparks different responses in different people: some become apathetic, some cynical, others fearful about the future. But you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that the best option of the lot is hope; quiet optimism that allows you to stay alert to the beautiful things and opportunities for kindness that surround us everyday. Jeffrey, you rock! I’m so glad we get to be cousins.
This post is dedicated to Jeffrey and his whole family in gratitude for Yashwant’s donation to my Writers Residency fundraising campaign. While I won’t be attending Chateau Orquevaux in November as planned, I hope to spend some concentrated time on my writing projects in another setting later this year. I’m planning to get in touch with all the people who generously contributed to my fundraising in the near future, to update you on these new plans. Feel free to get in touch with me also.