The Day after Yesterday

While I was on my travels, I became enthralled by a pair of hummingbirds that lived around the eco lodge. Elusive little creatures, I would wait silently, watching for them to appear. And eventually they would flit into the foliage in front of me, sometimes hovering for a nano second before darting off; other times lingering for a long tender moment, beak drawing out the sweetness from a favourite flower while suspended in the air, little wings fluttering. Just long enough to capture the magic in my memory.

There are hummingbirds at work in the green spaces around me in Africa. Distant cousins of the hummingbirds across the seas, with different colouring and beaks which are less long. Similarly their visits are fleeting but memorable, as they seek out their sustenance and go about their daily hummingbird work.

I find myself comforted by the presence of the hummingbirds. Grounded. Reminded that we live in a precious world. I can trust those little hummingbirds in their authenticity and integrity.

A couple of years ago, one of my three words was “integrity”. In fact it was my core word for that year, deliberately placed at the centre of my three word mantra. The words which I wrote about my choice of “integrity” in January 2014 continue to ring true.

“Do the right thing when no one is looking” is a (para) phrase which I read somewhere and I quietly lean on. I have seen it attributed as a definition of integrity but to me it means more than that. It speaks of quietly doing the right thing, without calling attention to what you are doing, so for the “right” reasons. It conveys the importance of being true to yourself and your values no matter how invisible or inconsequential that act may seem.  We live in challenging times, where priorities and demands conflict and by selecting integrity, I am setting out the importance of ensuring that in everything I do, I must remain true and loyal to my values and principles.  Integrity is the middle word for a reason.  It must be at the core of everything I do. No matter what challenges come my way, I must be proactive and faithful to what is right.  This will be tough for me. I know that the path of least resistance is one which I favour.  I don’t like confrontation or conflict, and yet sometimes it is necessary to face up to difficult times and not allow wrong things to happen, by doing nothing.  Integrity is like a beam of light which I must focus on and work towards.

I feel that if ever there is a word which we all need today, it is integrity. Do the right thing. Even, nay especially, if no one is looking. In our private and personal lives we have that constant responsibility to act with utter integrity. In our professional capacities, we must remain authentic and true to our values. As social beings, we must remain respectful, do what is right for each other and stand up for those whose voices are not heard or are misheard.

Today, as I watch out for the hummingbirds, Annie Lennox playing in the background, I am in a reflective mood. This is a day to challenge my own integrity and find the right, true path for me to act and live in these times.

Yesterday has already gone, retreating slowly and steadily further into the past. The day after yesterday is today. Today is the day we are in, for each one of us to play our part to shape the day after today. Tomorrow. And all of our tomorrows.

sunset-porch-2

Tomorrow

When I arrived back in Yangon in November 2010, following my diagnosis, surgery and the first two rounds of chemo, I remember sinking into the chair in our living room with a sense of exhaustion and relief. We had spent hardly any time in our new home before our sudden departure and did not know if we would be able to return. But return we did, almost 2 months later and to a very different Yangon. We had left while monsoon was drenching the earth and when we returned, the rains had evaporated, the earth was already dry and the sky clear blue. And our garden was glorious. The rains had nurtured the mature trees, the bamboo, the hibiscus and frangipani and we were surrounded by lush greens of every shade, punctuated by flashes of tropical colour. Our little home has large windows and the greenery outside brought a sense of calm and healing. I had not consciously craved such tranquillity until I found myself overwhelmed by the comfort it brought.

home sweet home 3For some reason, I was taken by a compulsion to plant a banana tree in our garden. I had long wanted to have a banana tree in my garden since living in Asia. That is something you don’t see in many Scottish gardens. I remember friends in Nepal planting a banana tree in their home in the southern plains and I was astounded at how quickly it grew, blossomed and then produced fruit. Now, returning to Yangon I felt an urgency in planting my own banana trees.

Happily, such things are easily done here and in no time there were a number of young banana trees in the garden, keeping the mango tree, the lime tree and the papaya tree company. They grew easily and I kept an eye on their progress as we moved through the gruelling triathlon of treatment, travelling back and forth between Yangon and Bangkok.

home sweet home 1

home sweet home 2

A few weeks ago, I saw a quote on social media which transported me instantly to the time and emotion of that need to plant the banana tree. I realised that there was something subtle and primal within that compulsion. While I was facing my mortality and the demons which accompany these thoughts, something within me was rising above that place. I was investing time and emotion in my own future, in the shape of a banana tree.

tomorrow More than ever I needed to believe in tomorrow.

And I still do. The cycle of growth, the seasons, the rising and the setting of the sun and the moon are things we take for granted but which are at the very essence of our existence. When I wanted to plant those banana trees, this was in the belief and desire of seeing them grow and flourish. That belief in tomorrow.

We still have our banana trees. They produced healthy red bananas the following year and the plants now tower above me. A tropical climate provides rapid results but the same would apply to any growth, whether flora of fauna, rooted in the principle of tomorrow.

Of course I still believe in tomorrow, though I no longer treat it with the same cavalier attitude.  None of us know how many tomorrows we have, and cancer pushes our belief in tomorrow in our face and laughs.  But we can smile back gently and plant our trees while we invest in the belief of all of our tomorrows.