Ever since a cruel boy had weaponised the concept to break her heart, Jodi had desperately tried not to turn into her mother. She’d discovered over the years that it was far from the worst thing that could happen – her mother had been kind, thoughtful and forgiving – and the heartbreak of losing her had been many magnitudes worse than being dumped by Andy Whitman.
Nevertheless, Jodi winced when she saw her mother in the mirror or caught herself using her voice. Which made it all the more confusing today, when the reflection before her wasn’t Mum. It was Grandma.
Not a true story. 😉
There’s a song on the radio these days in which the James Barker Band claims “They ain’t making new old trucks”. It’s a fun song and an understandable sentiment, but of course it’s nonsense. New old trucks are being created in unprecedented numbers. And so are new old ladies, which was the point of this story.
Trigger Warning: I haven’t written much misery recently. Maybe having kids makes it harder to write sad stories. But this one came to me and it needed to be shared. If I’ve done my job well, and especially if you’ve just been watching the UK’s Christmas adverts (McDonald’s in my case), it might bring tears to your eyes.
Little kids just take things for granted, don’t they? When I was in Kindergarten, I didn’t know it was weird to go to school nextdoor to a graveyard. Or to watch your teacher sneak out and eat her lunch every day beside a small grey angel statue, come rain or shine.
We collected leaves between the headstones and took rubbings of their intricate carvings, but we never went near the angel. It was Ms Connor’s special place.
Two weeks ago, Rochelle shared a picture from long-lost Fictioneer Doug, this week she doubles down and shares not only a photo but news of another member of the FF old guard, Ted. I don’t normally read past the picture, but today I scrolled on to look for the news. So glad to hear Ted’s nailing the stroke rehab – sending him all the best for ongoing progress. The news came with a request for Rochelle that no doubt inspired my story too. I hope you don’t mind me hopping on that bandwagon, Ted.
Joey seemed nice, thoughtful. Becca wanted to believe she’d chosen well this time. When the clocks changed, she started getting home in the dark. “I’ll leave the porch light on,” he said. “Like a lighthouse steering you into safe harbour.”
But Becca had a history with porch lights – Mom used to turn it on when Pop opened his second bottle. Not all lighthouses stand at the entrance to ports, some warn of dangers lurking just beneath the surface.
Outside, Becca swayed on a stormy sea of doubt, before heading for Joey’s lighthouse and praying it was the good kind.
My photo today, so a long extroduction follows my story. If you just want to read 100 words though, they are immediately below the image.
The perfect job sits at the centre of the Japanese venn diagram for happiness: Do something you’re good at, something you love, that pays money and contributes to the world.
That job seems a long way away – for nine years my time’s been spent providing for, teaching and generally raising two boys.
Sometimes I make mistakes, but if I can be judged by who they are becoming, I can’t be doing too badly. My role allows Jon to earn the family more. Our boys are our contribution to the world. And I love them.
They are my ikigai.
Last year, the kids were home for a LOT of school. One week they studied Venn diagrams. I love venn diagrams, and the boys like to be stretched so I pushed them to make something a little more complicated than the 2-part ones the teacher had set. Hence made this 3-part diagram with rings for “lego”, “red” and “living” things. And a pink truck which is outside all the rings.
Around the same time, a friend introduced me to the Japanese concept of Ikigai. The way she explained it is as set out in the first paragraph of my story. I have since read other explanations which suggest that this may be a westernised version of the original concept, but the venn diagram nature of her explanation appeals to me. I had something very close to the centre as a lawyer, many years ago, but have struggled to find the same balance in my post-law working life.
I once wanted to be a teacher. I watch my kids’ teachers though and I don’t know if I would be have been good at it. I love teaching, but I wouldn’t love the politics or the crowd control. ‘Home schooling’ the boys for so much of the last 2 years has been hard but there have been triumphs too. They loved little personalised extra challenges I set them, things that a teacher managing a class of 25 couldn’t possibly have time for.
When Rochelle posted my photo, I percolated it in the shower. Would I write a memoir about the history of this picture? A piece of silly fiction about the various items in the image? Ikigai came back to me and I considered writing about my quest for that balanced job. I read a little more about ikigai and came across a link about finding it outside of working life, or in a combination of work and life.
Sebastian turns 9 tomorrow. I’ve been a parent longer than I was a lawyer. I’m still searching for the perfect job, but perhaps I have already found my ikigai.