Thursday, 19 January 2017

In Which I Learn That I Am Admired So Much, And I Turn To Admire Others

Prompt 19 taken from

Great Minds: Write  about someone you admire and you thought to have had a beautiful mind.

Free written in a café. I haven't named anyone. I wouldn't want my friends and acquaintances to be embarrassed. But I had some of them in mind as I typed.  When I left home this morning I had an entirely different post in mind - a story about misplaced admiration.

A Pudding To Be Admired.  The Close Of An Admirable Meal.  Thanks Auntie.
Two messages:

I received a message today from a friend. It gave me a link to her blog. Every day for a year she wrote and gave writing prompts. Solid writing prompts, full of free writing instructions and happy concepts to play with. The page she sent me related to a writers' group I couldn't get to this morning. It's pretty amazing. I think I might write from her prompts more often – and not just at the writers' groups. I think we're fortunate to have her and fortunate to have that group. Fortunate too that there is no charge for it so a struggle with money is no reason to stay away. And God knows that half the writers there are probably struggling with money!

I received a message today from a stranger. It read “Hello, I admire you so much. Can we be friends?” It's not a question I've answered yet. From what I can tell the stranger is a real person. Not a bot. Not one of the many societally repressed middle eastern gentlemen who send friend requests to me without so much as a hello. And not one of the many American military personnel currently stationed in Afghanistan who for reasons of their own seek out as many transgender women online as they can. Lots of trans women get such requests. It's part of life online for us. What I must make clear now is that we can't abide these chasers. We find it all repugnant. This message today seems to be real. From a person with their own story and journey to tell.

“I admire you so much.”

I have trouble admiring myself. So much unfair comparison with others. So much of my past filled with self-denial. What is there to admire? And what is it that I admire in others?

Do I admire intellect, raw intelligence? Ten years ago I got MENSA to measure my IQ. They tell me that I'm genius level, with an IQ of 156. To give you an idea of just how much of a genius I officially am, the cut off line for Mensa membership in that test is an IQ of 132, a score that puts you in the top two percent of the population. A score above 145 on that test means you're a genius, in the top 0.1% of the population. I'm clever. Not the cleverest. A score of 156 wouldn't get me in the Prometheus Society or the Omega Society. More practice needed.

But is any of that to be admired? It's nice isn't it? But don't admire me for it. I don't. Quite apart from the fact that I believe IQ testing to be flawed on many levels I don't think that having been born with a brain that is what it is and having been raised to know how to do sums before starting school is anything praiseworthy. It is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

Since receiving that message I've thought about three groups of people among my friends and acquaintances who I admire. These are the ones with beautiful minds, not the people whose maths skills make mine seem more like someone struggling to add three to four in a kindergarten lesson.
  1. The overcomers
These are the people who struggle. These are the people who live full lives in the face of adversity. I know it's not politically correct to admire these people or to be inspired by them. You'll be told off these days by someone for going “Wow! Aren't they amazing?” when a person with no legs climbs Everest while you're still struggling to climb the stairs to get to bed.

Call me un-PC. I don't care. I admire these people. When I see how hard it is for some of my friends to do that stair climbing, to leave the house, to shine. When I see how many brilliant things they do, things that they very often don't see as brilliant at all because they, like me, compare themselves to others and set up impossible standards.

These people are exemplars for me. They are the ones who encourage me in their strength, perseverance, sheer bloody mindedness. Though they get knocked back and knocked back and knocked back they keep coming back. Stronger. More determined. Some of them don't get results the world would call amazing but that's not the point. People aren't defined by their deeds. They're defined by attitudes, by their vision, by the fullness of who they are. Definition – which in itself isn't truly possible – is about IS not DOES.

I look to these people and I see that things are possible. I see that it's worth it for me to carry on struggling. I find hope. I find wisdom.

In the overcomers I know that I too may overcome and thrive.
  1. The self-givers
These are the people who offer much of their lives for others. They are those who give their time to work with refugees, with the homeless, addicts, the downtrodden, the marginalised, with charities, or even with children's football teams.

These people inspire me for having minds that inspire them to do wonderful things.

As I look through the people I know it's clear that the Venn diagram of overcomers and self-givers has a big crossover.

The self-givers inspire me. And I know that in time they must become exemplars for me too. I may have limited resources mentally and socially. I've got to be wise in this and not do the things I'm not meant to be doing. But I know that I must find a way to follow these people, find my own niche or niches where I must be a servant.
  1. The writers and artists
I should include these people. They're important to me. In any case, I'm typing these words in an art café so it seems more than appropriate.

Their minds inspire me. And this inspires me most of all: They have all taken risks. They've risked picking up a paintbrush or a pen. They've risked the harsh stare of the empty page. They've risked producing utter crap and all of them have produced some crap. Just as I do. Crap production is part of the artist's way.

I'm inspired by those who allow their pictures to be shown for the first time, the second time, the thousandth time. I'm inspired by the writers who share their words with other writers, who offer their stories up as sacrificial lambs to publishing editors and competition judges. And I'm inspired by the writers who stand up before a group of their peers and the public and speak out their words.
I'm inspired so much that I have promised myself this:

I, Clare, will be like them.

I will, before this year is out, stand up and speak my words at a spoken word event.

I will, before this year is out, enter some writing competitions.

I will, before this year is out, write something I deem worthy to attempt to get published.

I am determined. I will continue to overcome. Continue to move towards thriving as the person I am discovering myself to be. And I will surprise myself in the things I do.

Because they are only human. And so am I.

Because they are staggering, stupendous, humans. And so am I.

And so are you.

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