Tuesday, November 24, 2015

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR #2





It’s that time of year when the stress and strain shows, particularly with me. I’m juggling schedules like a circus buffoon, so when I sat to skype with Agnes I was stressed and impatient to begin with, in a  “not another person looking for something from me” sort of way; a behaviour that smacks of meanness, I know, and one that I have never witnessed in Agnes no matter how busy she is. Agnes well used to negotiating my impatience, always reminds me just how grateful she is to have my assistance, but also insists that I am free to drop “our little project” anytime should it become too much, because if it’s not done with a generous spirit “the energy wouldn’t be right.” I take the prompt and immediately right my mood.
There’s something very touching about Agnes' kind of honesty, and using the words generous and spirit is particularly poignant with December looming as a timely reminder that I should perhaps have a little more of both.
I shrink from Christmas, I arrive to December 24th, angst ridden, irritable, ill-prepared and exhausted, and like a typical narcissist, self-obsessed with the demands it’s going to make upon me, and worse, expecting those around me to be grateful that I’m there. It’s not a formula for success.
And I suppose that’s what frightens me, sitting with the people I have more or less neglected for the better part of a year, trying to compensate with lush gifts, before I rush off on some work related flight to somewhere next day, hoping that I haven’t been judged to harshly. Compensatory it may be, but generous of spirit it is not, and the energy certainly isn’t right. So something is wrong, but what it is it?
On this point I met up with Agnes on a visit to the south-east very recently. I was waiting for her at a local café, when she arrived in a lush three quarter length black cashmere cloak, copiously trimmed with excessive amounts of “faux” Fox and generously cut. A dazzling black “fur” hat glittering with diamante, an enormous black hand muffler complete with swinging pom- poms and Swarovski, and a pair of vintage Chanel knee high black leather boots that must have set her back a month’s salary. She looked like a Romanov Princess.
We had tea, cakes and all sorts of good things. Agnes ordered enough for four, and discreetly paid for the bill before we had even finished. She is exceptionally thoughtful and uses every opportunity to give of herself and her personal resources. “It comes back to me you know...the money” she says with utter conviction. “I mean there’s no point in trying to hold on to it, it blocks the flow darling.”
I was having a moment of deep cynicism about her statement. Flow? Are we talking about a river? But I knew that the flow Agnes meant was “generosity” and looking at her life it’s evident that Agnes doesn’t “block” her generous nature but rather goes with her inclinations to give fearlessly and is rewarded with ample friends, money, socialising, and travel; enough to keep her in a constant whirl for as long as she might wish, with a crammed diary just to prove it. Can it really be that easy? As I looked at the dazzling cashmere and “fur” clad apparition before me, glittering like ice crystals, “apparently so” is the only conclusion I can come to.  
We chatted and I confessed my worries and loathing of Christmas in detail.
 “Darling, your family are not a jury, they are not judging you or your behaviour, they are just happy to have you there…. what’s the expression? Oh yes, you have to get over yourself.”
I felt a tad defensive, even though her comment was entirely altruistic, and I went on to explain that things are just not that simple, that situations can’t be condensed down into sentences for convenience. Human nature is far more complex.
Agnes took my defensiveness in her stride and poured some more tea for us both. Her manicured hands were beautifully white and the cranberry nail polish was festive and entirely in good taste.
She responded of course, and our good natured banter became a “tennis match.” Agnes the epitome of the Christmas spirit, and I- Ebenezer Scrooge- both sticking to our guns and yet mutually respectful, batting our opinions over and back an invisible net.
“Are you usually this grumpy “Roland? “
“Only in December Agnes, and during Paris Fashion Week of course.”
We both had a giggle and realised that maturity is a marvellous thing, it doesn’t require or ask that either of us change to suit the other. Agnes was having none of my navel gazing, but I wasn’t being judged by her either, and I strangely felt absolved and free.
“Now I have something for you” she says, pushing a small perfectly wrapped little box across the table”.         
The tiny card read,
 To Dear Roland, Thank you for helping me find my voice and wishing you a very happy Christmas. Love Agnes.
There was a beautiful burnished gold tie pin within.
As I look at the delicate wrapping paper, the tiny bow, and dinky little card, among an afternoon table that was weighed down with treats, I realised that whatever Agnes does, and no matter how big or small an action it might be, it’s filled with great love and generosity; I'm very grateful.
So as we sit there chatting, catching up, with her completely relaxed and informal way of conversing and listening, as though there are no other pressing demands or deadlines to be met, the afternoon unfolds like a gift, and I find myself sinking into my chair and lounging over the Earl Grey, with a sense of calm I haven’t experienced in an age. I even abandon my I-Phone.
“So can I say one more thing Roland?” Agnes interjects after several minutes of contemplative silence.
“Of course Agnes” I mumble through a coffee iced cinnamon cup-cake.
She looks at me through the trademark heavily mascaraed eyes,
 “It’s like this darling, it’s the time of year when you can really get to spend time and connect with family, and It would be worse if you weren’t there…really don’t expect so much of yourself, and people won’t expect it either. You don’t have to buy big gifts because you feel so guilty about not being home a lot. Just give time to your family, converse and talk, don’t feel guilty, be kind instead, your time is limited, so make it count, if you are going to be there, then really be there, connect with them, and be grateful. Time is our most precious thing at this time of the year Roland, time; it’s the real gift to give at Christmas, so make every minute count.”
Game set and match to Agnes, (and maybe new balls for Roland.)
Roland.


 
 







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