My Scottish Granny used to say to me when I was upset…”It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”.
I remember dropping a little jug of milk I was trying to place on a tea tray in her scullery, when I was a little girl. The floor was hard flagstones, and the little jug was delicate bone china…you can imagine the resulting chaos and debris….and my hot horrified tears.
Granny must have heard the smash, and she swept into the room all smiles…”I never did like that little jug, I was given it by a jealous maiden aunt when I married your Grandfather, and it always made me think of her pinched mouth and furrowed disapproving brow.”
I breathed out a little, and together we picked up the little broken shards of china…
Then she called in her dog…..”What a lucky boy, look at all that yummy milk”.
I had always loved my Granny, but that day I knew she would always be able to make anything which happened all right…just by accepting it and finding something to smile about while she delt with it. So I always quoted her saying to myself and others when unexpected things upset lifes careful plans. Imagine my surprise to discover that the phrase I quote as Grannys is actually from the first century AD!
It was a quote by Epictetus, who was a Greek stoic philosopher, and now that I have discovered him I beleive that either my Granny was his reincarnation…..or that she had read his work. It is possible that she had read him, as my family have always put a heavy emphasis on education, and my Granny was one of the first women to attend Edinburgh University at the turn of the twentieth centuary……still it has left me a little bewildered and wondering what else she might have plagerised…..
But it also speaks to me of choosing to look at life in a way which keeps us open to the possibilities of creativity spilling out of disruption, chaos or the unforseen. Lifes plans often come unravelled, but something new can usualy be created from the unplanned ripples, or waves…..if only we can open our eyes.
The Ink Dark Moon
Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house
by Izumi Shikibu