My best and worst thing
My Spark is Connection
I love creating food for myself the way I like it, but the sparks fly when I share it with others. They don’t have to love it. In fact, what I want most is to share the food and talk about it. It is not about the food.
I want to find some point of connection through the tastes and textures of a feast. Whether it’s a shitake mushroom risotto or a saffron ice cream, ciabatta rolls or a Tarte Tatin, I don’t want your unconditional praise and adoration. I want to connect with you. I would like you to guess the spices and flavourings, be curious about the pastry’s texture, and inquire how I achieved such alchemy.
Connecting with Myself
I have spent most of my life hiding, retreating to isolation. I love to create. Food, music, stories, songs, videos, poems, it doesn’t matter what. That is not my spark.
Connecting with Others
I’ve been a passionate teacher, storyteller, jazz musician, composer, arranger, team-builder, businessman and counsellor. None of that is my spark. That is stuff I do because of my spark. I lost my passion for teaching when successive governments reduced education to a skeleton and then picked the bones clean of all need for human connection.
Identifying my Spark
Connection is my best and worst thing. It ebbs and flows through my 66 years of life. I was born into a large extended family, yet the past pictures hanging on my inner walls are those where I am alone. At the piano, playing the guitar in my room or reading.
Outstanding memories of connection with my family are fraught with difficulty. Of course, there were some great family events and outings, but those tend not to stand out in memory. Images of brothers kicking monopoly boards in the air, fights at weddings, inevitable Christmas meltdowns, all permanently etched into my retina.
So my survival mode is to avoid connection. Connect with myself only. What I actually want is to connect with others.
As a teenager, I loved having a girlfriend. It felt like an essential part of my life. Someone to hold hands with, go to the cinema with, walk on the beach beside or sit with for an entire evening in a pub nursing a single pint of beer and a packet of crisps.
I loved the connection and intimacy.
Where it all went wrong was around sex. Older brothers, the media and peers handed down the message that the sole purpose of having a girlfriend was getting laid. For me, this broke the connection and destroyed the intimacy.
It was a two-way thing. Girls in the ’60s were handed down conflicting instructions. ‘All boys are interested in is having sex with you. If you let them have it, they won’t respect you. If you don’t let them have it, they will dump you and find someone else more willing.’
Without all the gory details. I became impotent under the weight of all these conflicting messages. Yet, my spark did win through, and I have made wonderful connections over the years and had some glorious sexual experiences also. Sorry if that is TMI!
My biggest learning about connection has come through my creativity. My ‘Eureka! Moment’ happened in my early twenties when a brother took me to a jazz club in London. On a Sunday lunchtime, four musicians got together and drew me into their craft and their inspiration. After a couple of numbers, the leader spoke to the audience and introduced the band.
However, he did not introduce them to us. He introduced them to each other. Bass player Dave meet drummer Martin. Saxophonist Henry meet the rest of the band.
In this tongue-in-cheek moment, he unlocked a passion. He told me that these musicians were not following the script laid down in manuscripts and rehearsals. There had been no rehearsals. There were no manuscripts. This was a one-off scratch band thrown together by rubbing diaries of availability. They were accessing a universal language, a set of agreements unspoken that meant they could connect in the moment through music. It hooked me into the jazz world.
Many Paths to Connection
Since then, my solo creative pursuits have all blossomed out into career moments where I connect with others and help them to connect.
For 15 years, I studied jazz and then began to teach it. I immersed myself in making a connection with music and the musicians. I had peak experiences where I felt a force greater than myself playing the piano through me.
This path dipped, and I became a performing storyteller. I became a conduit through which others could connect with the ancient wisdom of storytelling, and I could connect with hidden parts of myself.
This then developed into singing groups improvising with our voices, connecting heart to heart and soul to soul. Later drumming took over and I built a business of 15 years on facilitating connection and teamwork through Drum Circles.
Now I am in the final stages of learning to be a counsellor. I am learning how to connect the various parts of myself. By creating a balanced connection between my own body, mind, spirit, and emotion, I can connect with others and help them do the same.
Only by healing this disconnection in ourselves can we hope to heal others and save the planet from destruction at humans’ hand.
I promise I will continue to follow my spark of connection. I encourage you to tease out your spark to step past your distractions and lead a purposeful life.