Going back to my roots: Truth or Lies?

In my last post, I mentioned that I am learning things about my family’s past that I didn’t know before.  I am aware that there may be stories that might be uncomfortable or painful to re-tell.  Some might say that there is no point knowing as that is all in the past and most of the people are dead.  They may be right, or maybe not.  Anyway it has got me thinking –  I have a lot of free time on my hands at the moment.

In the British film Secrets and Lies a web of secrets has been woven around one particular family.  People are misjudged and issues and dynamics are created based on hiding events from the past.  When the truth comes to light, instead of breaking up the family, it eventually brings them together.   In this case, the truth was shocking, but  it was nothing so sinister that would destroy these people.  In this case, the truth had set them free.

Online at Global Post, I came across an article entitled Torn Between Identities in Argentina. It is about the genetic testing being carried out on children that were removed from their families during the rule of the military junta.   Many children whose parents were killed ended up being raised by people who supported the dictatorship instead of being given back to remaining family.  The grandmothers never gave up looking for their grandchildren.  Now that DNA testing is available, many suspected adopted children are refusing to take the test as they have feelings for the families that raised them.  Some people feel that the law is unconstitutional because if one is suspected of being a kidnapped child, they can be forced to take the test.  If the parents are found guilty, they can go to jail.  In some ways this is a Catch 22 situation; where does one’s loyalty lie, to the one that raised you or to your biological family?  This was a terrible time in Argentina’s past and many people have gone unpunished for crimes that were committed.  But what about the children?  Most of them will be adults by now.  They will have lived a whole life under a lie.  How will the truth affect their mental state?  Will knowing the truth create more suffering?  Or will it create understanding and compassion?  As is usual in situations as this, politics have some bearing in this situation.  Politics aside, I believe that this is a moral issue based on atrocities of the past.  How can we allow atrocities to go unpunished when so many still suffer and when there is a way to learn the truth?  The truth can indeed hurt, but with time and care one can overcome these things.  The children that were given to families were innocent.  However, as adults, they know the difference between right and wrong.  If they learn who they really are, then punishing those involved might guarantee that this type of thing wouldn’t happen again because of the consequences, no matter how long it took.  As the saying goes, “you can run, but you can never hide” (especially from yourself).

This year, a book entitled The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather’s Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation by Martin Davidson was published.  I haven’t read it yet.  It is about a young man’s discovery about his family’s Nazi past.  It must have been very shocking for Mr. Davidson to find out the truth about his grandfather.  However, without having read the book, I am making the assumption that he now has a better understanding of the man.

The whole idea of this book resonates with me.  As I mentioned in my previous post, there are secrets in my own family.  Some more open than others.  I mentioned that no one liked my grandfathers.  There was good reason, which I really won’t go into here.  There are things that I know that are quite despicable and I used to ask myself ‘why?’  Delving into the past has answered some of those questions.  I have better understanding.  Understanding events of the past doesn’t make the things that I despise any less despicable.  Cycles of events and family dynamics are very difficult to break or change.  It can take generations.  There were things about my family that I didn’t know until I was in my 30’s.  It was distressing information.  It was distressing for the people telling me and I was distressed to hear it.  I eventually got over it and I was able to have empathy for all those involved.  I was able to move beyond the restrictions of my upbringing.  Better late than never.  Some people never know their parents or how they got to be the people they are.  I don’t think it is necessary to share everything, but I do think communication is essential.  It can make all the difference in having an ah-ha moment.  Ah, my mom is like this because of this thing that happened when she was little.  Ah, dad is like this because my grandfather used to do such and such.  If I talk to my children about my upbringing, then they can understand why I do the things I do.  Maybe they will make better decisions in their lives than I did.

If learning from History is so important, then why do so many people hide the past?  Why do we care so much about what other people think?  If someone does something so terrible, it is understandable why one would want to hide it.  But instead of hiding this terrible thing, why not accept responsibility?  Because of self-preservation.   We all want to live.  Lying can become easier than telling the truth.   When I was young, I would lie to avoid getting smacked.  Sometimes I got away with it.  The outcome was the same for telling the truth or found caught lying.  Living in  fear of the outcome meant that it was easier to risk lying.

I know what it is like to have lived with someone who hid the truth and who has lied about their past.  The sad thing is, the truth didn’t come out until it was too late.  I had been sucked into the web of lies by the time everything started to fall apart.  The really sad thing is, none of the lies were really necessary.  The truth was never really that bad, only in the liar’s mind.  Lies are manipulations to control outcomes and people.  We all do it on occasion.  The people who do it all the time are considered sociopathic.  I learned all about the lies and why someone would do it.  Having understanding didn’t make the situation right, but at least I had information that allowed me to move on with my life without bitterness.  The lies were destructive to my relationship, but not my life.  Although I went through a terrible situation, I came through it a better person because I had more information.

I don’t really know what life was like for my grandparents and my great-grandparents.  I don’t know anything about their upbringing.  I do know the effect it had on my parents and Aunts and Uncles and how it trickled down to me and my siblings and my cousins.  I would like to know more about what life was like for my grandfather’s generation.  What was it like to leave their country and what hardships had they suffered?  How did they feel about building a new life in America and was it really any better or worse than they thought it would be?  What frustrations and humiliations had they endured?  I may never know.





Finishing The Job

I recently completed a two-day seminar on Leadership and Management.  It seems that one of my skills is that of a Finisher.  Basically, that means I like to pay close attention to detail and can be counted on to get a job done.  At work, that is pretty much me all over.  Although I am generally a Big Picture type of person and would prefer to leave the little details to others, I have always been in a position that requires I pay close attention to detail, especially when dealing with finances.  This is a skill that I have acquired over many years, rather than something that comes naturally to me.

Although I am in-between jobs, I am still working very hard.  I am Project Managing the works being done to my house.  I could have hired a contractor to organise everything, but that would have cost me more money, even though it would have saved me some time.  I reckon that I could have had all the work done by now if I hadn’t moved in straight away, but an advantage of living here is that I can really work out what is necessary.  (I have changed my mind a few times already about how I want things to look.)  I do not have a bevy of workmen that I could easily get quotes from.  I am relying on contacts for recommendations or just sourcing contractors from the internet.  It can be very frustrating at times.   Although the workmen come to the house and spend about an hour looking things over, some of them never even send me a quote.  One would think in these times of recession, they would be jumping at the chance to make some money.  They may be very busy now, but things will get slack and then what?  I am done chasing after contractors for quotes.  People don’t seem to be in so much of a hurry here to do anything.  In some ways that is a good thing as it gives me more time to think things over to work out what I really need.  I do know that the end result is going to be amazing and that I will end up with a home that I can be proud of.

That will be a far cry from my last home.  I had modest plans for the last property I owned in London.    Then I made the mistake of getting involved with someone who was hired to do some work on my property.  The workmanship was very good at the time, and what started out as a good thing ended up being a bit of a disaster.  The person I was with had grand ideas for my home and I allowed him to implement some of his ideas on my property.  When we eventually went our separate ways, I was left with unfinished work and a huge amount of debt.  I immediately went into damage control mode and was able to pay off some of the debt and manage the rest, although I spent the next seven years living in a building site.  This made it very difficult to sell my property.  Refinancing the mortgage to finish off the work meant that I would have ended up paying £3 for ever £1 I borrowed.  Refinancing the mortgage was no longer a viable option, so I stuck it out and hoped for the best.  I may have lived in a building site, but at least I had a roof over my head and the sleeping areas were relatively untouched and habitable.  The worst areas were downstairs.  Things looked much worse than they really were, but my home wasn’t really a place where I wanted to entertain or have people around, even for a cup of coffee.  I can only imagine what it was like for my children.  They really couldn’t bring their friends around.  If the children had friends over, they were mainly confined to their bedrooms.  Things were easier when they were at boarding school during the week and my eldest went of to University. I did have a minor setback when the central heating packed in and I didn’t have the money to get a new system installed.  You have no idea how ecstatic I was when I finally sold my house.  I was over the moon!  I was able to downsize and start over.

Not many people get second chances.  I learned a lot from my previous experience.  (HUGE understatement) I have also been fortunate to work in the construction and design industry and am able to implement the knowledge I have gained from that and put it to good use in my current situation.  I am taking my time to work out what I really want and thinking things through carefully.  I may never recoup the money that I am spending on my property, but I have no intention of selling anytime soon after the work has been completed.  I am not being extravagant, but I do have certain standards and the house needs updating.  I should be living in a beautiful home at my time of life.  When my children come to visit, I want them to be happy to be here and as comfortable as possible.  Ditto for guests.  My house has been a little bit neglected, but I am in a position to give her a bit of a make-over.

I may not have been able to finish the job on my previous property, but I  have the knowledge and resources at hand to finish the job on my new home.  The work has already started and I must say that it is looking good. 🙂

Buying Art – Part 2

Over ten years ago, I became friends with Elizabeth Rollins-Scott.  Elizabeth is a wonderful and beautiful person and she is also an artist.  I love her work.  Just before I moved into my last house in London, I purchased one of her paintings.  I apparently beat three other people to it and was offered by one of them more money than the asking price.  I turned them down.  As it was, the painting was more expensive than I could afford at the time, but it was love at first sight and I had to have it.  I just felt something immediately when I saw it.   The only word that comes to mind is LOVE.  It took me two instalments, but I managed to save the money for the painting.  Elizabeth and her partner installed it in my bedroom and it has been with me ever since.  Because the piece is rather large and delicate in some places, it also came with me when I went to stay with Amor.  Her painting has been one of the first things I have seen nearly every day for more than ten years.  I will never part with it.  In fact, I have people putting dibs on it when I die!

Not long after, when Elizabeth founded Diesel House Studios and they had their first show of artist’s work, I came across the work of Martyn Perryman.  At that time, Martyn’s work was on large canvasses.  Martyn’s style is completely different to Elizabeth’s.  I had this overwhelming feeling of peace when I looked at his paintings.  It wasn’t a feeling that I was used to at that stage of my life.  Unfortunately, I really couldn’t afford  to purchase any of Martyn’s paintings and I also didn’t have the right space.  I have had one of his flyers on a bulletin board ever since, thinking/hoping I would own one of his paintings one day.

After living in my new house here in Eastbourne for about a month, I realised that she needed something.  She needed a new painting to commemorate my/our new beginning.  After all, it is sort of a new beginning for my house also.    She had been used as a rental property and hasn’t had much TLC.  She needs a beauty treatment.  She isn’t having a complete facelift, but she will have a few nips here and a few tucks there.  Some updating is required and a new painting would be the perfect house warming present to her.

While putting away some papers, I found the document with a picture of Martyn’s work and credentials.  I looked him up on the internet to see if he was still in London.  I had to go up to London and thought I might like to have another look at his work while I was there.  We exchanged a few e-mails and it turned out he was having an open house at his studio on the day I was to return home so I arranged to meet him.  I have to say I was very excited.  After all this time, I wondered if I would even be able to afford  to buy anything, let alone still like his work.  I needn’t worry on any count.  In fact, I think Martyn’s work has gotten better and in some cases a bit smaller!  I didn’t have to worry about affordability or whether it would fit on the wall.  I just had to make up my mind which one I would have!  Choices, choices!  In the end, I chose four – one medium size and three small ones – three for me and one for Amor.

Because Martyn and I had Elizabeth in common, we had much to talk about and learned a lot about each other and what we had been doing over the years.  Martyn is very passionate about his work and I feel it shows in his paintings.  I love talking to creative people and learning what motivates and moves them to do what they do.  After a couple of hours, I felt I was with an old friend.

One of the wonderful things about Martyn is his partner Mary English. Mary is a sculptor and has a very interesting way of firing her work.  Have a look at her website as I cannot write about it and do it any justice.  You need to see the process.  I initially came to purchase a painting from Martyn and also ended up purchasing one of Mary’s sculptures.  I have to say that their work really complements each other; I have one of Martyn’s paintings hanging above the fireplace with Mary’s sculpture on the mantelpiece.

Mary happens to be American, from California, and has lived in England about as long as I have, or perhaps longer.  We are also about the same age.  I’m a bit older!  We seem to have some similar parallels in our lives.  East Coast girl meets West Coast girl.  I liked her from the moment I met her.  I think she is amazing!

Before I left with my purchases, I asked Martyn about the work that he had done that time I saw him a Diesel House and he told me he still had one of the paintings and asked me if I wanted to see it.  What a question!  So he brought it out.  I recognised it.  It was big.  Is it for sale?  Pause, yes.  How much?  He told me.  OK.  I just need to see if it will fit in my house.  I get home, take measurements and send Martyn an e-mail.  Will it fit this space that I have?  Yes it will.  When can you bring it over?  We set a date.  I’ll make lunch.  Can you hang it for me on my picture rail?  Yes, no problem.  Great!

The big day arrives and Martyn and Mary arrive with my new old painting!  Good thing I washed down the picture rail as it was rather dusty.  It took a little while to hang the painting just right, but it looks perfect on my sitting room wall.  I can’t stop looking at it.  I still get that feeling of peace when I look at it.

I had also asked Martyn to bring along some more of his smaller pieces.  When I showed Amor the two small pieces I had bought for myself, he fell in love with one that I didn’t think he would really like.  So I gave it to him (the things we do for love!) and kept the little one for myself that I was going to give him for his birthday – and because the other one went with the one he fell in love with ( I chose them as a contrasting pair), he bought it off of me.  The thing is this:  Amor loved the painting more than I did.  I really liked it.  I really love the one hanging above my fireplace and the large one.  The painting had to go to Amor because he had more feeling for it!  But of course I had to replace them!  Martyn had obviously been busy, as he had brought along some new ones I had noticed he was still working on at the time of my visit.  I chose two that I liked and now have a series of three!  They will be going in the dining room!

After the picture hanging, we went into the garden for lunch.  It was a lovely, sunny day!  A perfect day to be at the coast.   Unfortunately, they couldn’t stay very long because of other commitments, but promised to be back once the kids were done with school.  It was so lovely to see them again and get to know them better.  What started out to be a business arrangement is now turning into a friendship.  I love how that happened!

My new painting may not be the first thing that I will see when I wake up every morning, but it will be one of the first things as it is on my way to the kitchen for my morning coffee or on the way out when I leave the house!  It seems that feeling I had all those years ago has finally come to fruition, perhaps with a little bit of help from The Universe.  Sometimes we just need to be patient and the timing has to be just right in order to get what we want.

Now, I hear that Elizabeth has been working on some new pieces!  Hmmm!