Out of Place

X-mas flake

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…”
― Theodore Roosevelt

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The first thought I had this morning was about being out of place…

“You’ve never known your place,” I told myself.

Short clips from past to present flashed before my eyes like sparkling X-mas lights…

of people getting annoyed with me because I thought I was their equal and they disagreed, apparently I should have realised that I was inferior to their superior.

of adults lecturing me as a child about things a child should be, do and say, or, more to the point, pointing out who the child should not be, what the child should not do and not say.

The most common thing I was told by those who were drunk on the height and age advantage which they had over me was that I should know my place.

Things change, and yet stay the same… morphing from a child into an adult changed my height and age, but didn’t seem to change other people’s propensity to be intoxicated by the need to tell others where their place is according to them (if they have such a problem with where you are, why don’t they move to get a different perspective).

Problem with knowing your place is that everyone seems to have a different opinion about where that is actually located, the only part which they agree on is that you are standing in the wrong.

There were moments when I felt like an X-mas bauble hanging on a prickly branch while everyone discussed my status… was I a good enough bauble to remain hanging on the tree, perhaps I should just go back in the box, maybe I’d look better placed elsewhere (like at the back where no one could see me)… different hands would grab at me and move me around, until one day my string broke and… this bauble dropped and wobbled (odd-shaped baubles don’t roll… they don’t do anything properly!) away to a place where it could rest in pieces.

I found a quiet and dark corner, the kind which people tend to avoid and avert their eyes if they happen to spot it, where I could observe all those places where other people stood.

I watched their feet…

they thought the ground beneath them was stable…

as though they were not perched precariously on a rock which was spinning and hurtling through the unknown space…

lit by the glow of prehistoric light…

blowing like universal dust in solar winds

but since they never looked down (not on themselves anyway) they couldn’t see the earth shifting under their soles, they couldn’t feel the grains of life moving…

their feet weren’t encased in the illusion of safety…

their bare skin was silenced…

their toes couldn’t talk to them, they were trapped inside a gilded cage, rubbing and chafing against the walls of protection, yearning for a freedom they’d heard about from a stinky, sweaty sock which had managed to escape the relentless urge to clean it…

People sometimes wonder what happens to socks…

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X-mas stocking

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…socks sometimes wonder the same thing about people.

What on earth am I going on about… I seem to have lost my way, forgotten my place.

I’ve always had a fairly good grasp of the now, as long as the now is allowed to keep changing from moment to moment as it does. The minute someone expects me to stamp the now with a time, place and date… well, it’s no longer the now, it’s a past event but that never seems to stop others from thinking then is still viable in the now as a now and you should embrace the past as your present (accept the present of the past or they’ll think you’re being ungrateful and put you in your place).

As I wondered about being out of place, a past Christmas floated into focus. I was about 9 years old (give or take a hundred years). It was a run up to X-mas school day. My teacher asked me if I’d done my homework…

What homework, I don’t recall being given any homework… uh… oh… how long ago did this supposed homework event take place, was I there at the time…

Apparently I was…

supposed to have learned a section of The Night Before Christmas because I was one of several pupils chosen (when did that happen!?!) to recite it for the end of term X-mas show thingy that parents and teachers force the children to do and then sit through waiting for the ordeal to be over… with proud smiles frozen on their faces.

I couldn’t recall any of this… I said as much and was out of place for doing so… and was put in my place – outside of the classroom to stand there until I had learned my lesson (surely lessons can only be learned inside the classroom).

I was mortified… I was always mortified as a child… that carried over into adulthood too and became my constant companion. Good old Mort!

I learned my part of the poem forwards and backwards, and when the day came to do it in front of an audience I was effing ready for it… I knew my place.

But then the pupil who was supposed to recite that part with me forgot their lines and… there was a very uncomfortable silence as everyone lost their place in the grand scheme of things…

I wondered why…

I’d bothered to learn my lines and know my place…

had been punished for not knowing either…

had done my time…

done the right thing…

but…

it all went wrong anyway…

and it didn’t really matter.

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X-mas sparkle

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“…but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

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I’ll never forget that place…

perhaps because even though I am no longer there…

some of its grains got stuck to the soles of my bare feet like shards of memory glass…

and I take them with me wherever I go,

stand,

some grains like to travel,

or are they waiting in place…

for me to know my place so that they can drop off and settle?

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