Beyond the exhibition and before the exit there is always a café. A place to refresh, rest a little and reflect on what we have just seen, but also a place that sits at the boundary of two worlds – a place between curated calm and the more chaotic spin of our real lives.
You will have gathered that I very much like the idea of a pause and the opportunity to notice. The time we make to do this is never wasted. Galleries and exhibitions are brilliant for this – a place where the rush and clamour of the outside world is suspended just for a while and replaced with a quieter, slower and more reflective pace that allows us to see and feel a story that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
When we tell our story well, when we truly see its value and love what it means, it will speak for us and it will speak for others too. As a society, as a team, as individuals, we all grow stronger and more powerful, and see more opportunity when we can see, feel and relate to what others have achieved. It is so much harder to imagine the contribution we might make if we do not see ourselves in the stories that others have told before us. Stories are like pathways illuminated with the light that others have left behind so that we might step forward with more confidence and determination to make our own unique contribution.
By telling our stories we therefore help others to be what they can be, but we help ourselves as well. We slow down the swirling whirl of the unrelenting moment, so that we may rest a little away from the din, knowing that we have already travelled well. The energy we need to go again is not summoned in the moment from thin air, it is in our story, embedded in all we have achieved before.
To tell our story is not to boast or to say, “look at me,” it is to link our past with our present, to make a connection with those who have inspired us and to offer the hope that we might inspire others too. The only certainty when we do not tell our story is that none of us will make the world a better place by pretending we have nothing to say.
To pause also gives us a better opportunity to see the moments that make everything worthwhile. In my work I spend a lot of time with busy people talking about purpose and fulfilment but knowing that their day-to-day commitments and the onrushing sound of an overwhelming workload, mean we focus more on coping than thriving. To pause is not to indulge ourselves when we should just “keep going”. Neither is it a luxury to sometimes step away from the joyless austerity of our diary which offers so little support or kindness. Pausing is necessary if we are to make sense of our place in the world. Pausing is necessary if we are to relish the gifts we have, and to use them well.
If I were to describe my personal purpose as it feels to me today, it is to help others to pause so that they might see the moments that make everything worthwhile for them.
The café at the end of the exhibition is where we prepare to re-enter our real world. In this exhibition I hope we may have seen some things that moved us a little, that made us think, and that have hopefully caused us to pause, if only for a few moments. I hope we have found some peace and inspiration in a place designed for reflection.
And now we are in the café, scanning for a table that might be free, deciding if having cake this close to lunchtime is still ok, and already noticing that the calm of a curated pause is subsiding. Here the background noise is louder, the light is harsher, and there is a slight sense of loss seeping into our thoughts as we prepare to get back to our reality.
We are nearly there, nearly at the end, but this liminal café space is precious too and we should not rush our drink (or cake) before our restless world demands our attention again.
When we move through any exhibition our role is partly to notice, partly to reflect and partly to ask ourselves how we want to take the experience with us when we leave. I say this not to make everything sound profound and vital, but just to make sure we have slowed things down enough to see the blessings in our reflections, if there have been blessings to see.
As we sit in the liminal café, a pause between two worlds, I would like to reflect with you that my work since meeting Lawrence in that café on Baker Street twenty-three years ago has been in a liminal space. I work with people between careers, between moments of stress and joy, between old certainties and new beginnings; but more than that, my world is in a space mostly unnoticed and unseen. As I say, my purpose is to help people navigate their own liminal spaces, not to rush through these transitions, but to make them an intentional pause where we see things in a different light and in new colours, so that we may notice more moments that make everything worthwhile.
I love my liminal world; I love that I can support wonderful people without being in the way of their success, but to be present enough to help them hold their vulnerability when it might become momentarily too heavy to carry on their own. My world is a constant and wonderful blessing.
Before we leave the café, I should acknowledge with you that not everything I value in my world is here in the exhibition. I have only mentioned a few of the people who inspire me every day, but there are so many others not mentioned who do this too. There are also places I have been and experiences I have had that shape my world and the way I gaze upon it, but too many to include in one small exhibition space. The story we tell, is only ever part of us, it is never all of us; and like any exhibition mine is a curated insight into just a small part of my world. As Martha and Martin would say, it is but a story written on a grain of rice.
There is never just one story to tell about any of us, never just one way to see our lives, or one way to know what matters to us. There is never just one exhibition, whoever we are and whoever we share our story with.
In time I hope to write much more. There are things I have not yet found the words to share, and stories to tell that I hope others may rest within for comfort and some support. However, most importantly of all I need to write more so that I may celebrate the work of so many others who have changed my life for the better (and for many others too).
For the moment, we are nearly at the end of this part of this story. If I were to sit here with you now in my liminal café, in the space between my exhibition and the bustle of our hectic lives, I wouldn’t ask you what you thought of my exhibition, but I would ask you how you would like to curate yours. I know it would inspire me and I hope it might inspire you too. Our stories are the foundations for the blessings in our lives today and contain the hopes and the inspiration for the difference we are here to make in the world.
My exhibition is not about my story, but about how you might tell yours.
To be continued…
Take care xx