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Crafting a legacy

Last week I asked you what you most wanted to read about from me, and I was pleased to hear that poetry, tall tales and beautiful things were most requested right now. I was also pleased to hear that ideas and invitations into deeper thought and understanding are quite welcome - and that conclusions aren’t necessarily needed.

That’s a relief, because I certainly don’t have all the answers.

(Thank you again for all your replies!)

At the end of January I relocated from Amsterdam, my home of almost 8 years, for a short stint living in England. Here I have been enjoying the impending spring in rural Lincolnshire (see the picture above). I’ve loved getting back to my country roots, and my cup has been filled by the adventures I’ve had as a rambler along the public bridleways through picturesque farmland, and sharing baked goods and intimate conversations with the long term residents of the village.

Growing up in rural Australia, I wasn’t aware of how “British” my upbringing really was. From the values which held together our community to the food we enjoyed at dinner time (or should I say “tea time”?). Being here has deepened my gratitude for my wholesome country upbringing and helped me understand my culture and heritage at a deeper level.

It’s a legacy I’m re-owning, consciously.

Legacy is a theme that has been unfolding for almost all of my clients in some shape or form recently, and it took me sitting in a 17th century traditional British pub after a long walk through the Derbyshire Dales to make the connection. 

While I was enjoying a hearty dark ale, the publican shared with me a local legend about a place nearby called ‘Lover’s Leap’. The story goes that a young couple were engaged to be married when the young man fell in love with another woman, leaving his fiancee heartbroken and alone. Unable to bear the pain, the young woman decided to leap from a nearby rocky peak. In an unlikely twist of fate, her large puffy skirt, high fashion at the time, acted as a parachute and broke her fall. She survived, and went on to overcome the loss of her unfaithful lover and live a long and happy life. And the peak obtained its name in honour of the woman and her deeply troubled moment. 

True or not, many places have tales like this that are never written down. It’s the people that perpetuate them. 

Families also have tales and traditions that carry on, unwritten, and often unspoken. Whether completely true, or not. Perpetuated in the lives of those family members.

They’re woven in ways both subtle and obvious. In the tangible, you might think in terms of photographs and war medals. Or even family businesses. In the intangible, you might think in terms of the way we learned to make our gravy, tie knots, set the table or determine whether we keep drinking glasses right side up or upside down in the kitchen cupboard.

It’s also our work ethic, our political slants and the values we choose to live by.

Legacy is all around us.

Sometimes legacy is creating the thing we never had for our own children. Or living in the opposite way that we lived as we were growing up. Being a fork in the road of the fate of the family line. Several of my clients have come to me with tales such as these over the years, meeting their personal hardships with a sense of determination that they would create a better life for their own children, or become the role models they never had. Sometimes these are very intentional choices, and sometimes it feels more instinctual, subconscious.

I wrote about generational trauma in an article I penned a while back. That too is a legacy.

Legacy is often on accident, but not always. 

A friend of mine is currently working on a deal with a book publishing company, after writing an incredible series of novels together with his father. The story they’ve written is about many things, but mainly about faith, family values and living a life of service. I was lucky enough to be a test-reader for the first novel of the series, and I’ve watched the main character come to life as an embodiment of the legacy of the men who crafted him. I’ve never met my friend in person as he lives on the other side of the world, but I feel already that I know much of him and his father through reading stories about the people their minds co-created.

Character. Career choices. Charity. Technology that shapes the world. Business. Musical talent. Parenthood. Religion. Creative expression. Are these not legacies spanning past, present, and future?

The word can be traced back to Medieval Latin legatus, meaning person delegated, such a as deputy or ambassador. As many of the roles—or legacies—that we take on happen by chance, perhaps the opportunity here is one resetting intentions. What has been collected along the way, and must be valued, retained, perpetuated and passed along for the future to enjoy? What ought to be challenged, transformed, transmuted and expressed in new ways so that it too can add to the future? 

In the wall of this little English pub was found a mummified cat. All those centuries ago, it was believed that cats would protect a building’s occupants from evil spirits, so it's quite common to find them in very old buildings. The 400 year old cat still stands in the cosy pub, glaring as intensely as the day she was entombed in the wall. A source of story and superstition. Apparently, the beams on the upper floor exhibit carved witch markings for extra protection of the patrons. 

Legacy creates richness and depth. And we get to have discernment over which legacies we live into and carry forward. Be they connected to who we are or what we do.

So what will you do with the legacies handed to you? And which will you pass along to the hearts and minds of those you meet along your path?

I wish you many feelings of warmth and nostalgia as you reflect on your own legacies of people, places and things.

Thank you for showing up.

Keep showing up.

No legacy is so rich as honesty.

— William Shakespeare

'Let the music play on' would be my legacy. 

— Lionel Richie

People who think you could wave a magic wand and the legacy of the past will be over are blind.

— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.

— Pericles


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