Your city 100 years from now

642 Things to Write About

Fiction Prompt from ‘642 Things To Write About’ by : Your city one hundred years from now

It is the year 2117. A very old woman named Mrs Lil Van Wyngaard walks the streets of Melbourne. I specify walks not because she is homeless, because she is not, but because walking these days is a rare event. Most people hover (if they are really poor they use a hovercraft instead of having the jets surgically implanted into their feet). Lil has always been old fashioned. She tells the kids on her block that she used to be suspicious of ebooks, but they tell her that they have no idea what an ebook is. Does she mean insta-info pads?

A lot of the time they look at her funny and she suspects that they think she has completely lost her marbles (of course marbles are a relic of the past too).

The kids, not meaning to be rude, ask Mrs Van Wyngaard if when she expires (the term ‘death’ is no longer used so as to avoid offending the people mourning or those who are close to their ‘expiry date’) she will be stuffed and put in a museum, like Phar Lap? They somehow know who he is. Go figure. Although horses are extinct now. Too much pollution, and they got phased out, just like cars. Teenagers laugh at their parents when they use the word driving to describe hovering, or ‘hovving’ as the cool kids say. “Mum,” they say, “that is so last century.” Literally.

The museums are getting too overcrowded all over the world so the earth government have made an executive decision to start deleting parts of history, like throwing out old files in an office. The obsolete bits of history—the boring, inconvenient and unusable parts, of course—are distributed to the poor to take strain off the social security system. The paperback history is divided up and used by them as stuffing for their coats in the winter. Feathers are also extinct, because of all the birds being eaten. Lil’s next door neighbour Peter claims that they were worth every delicious mouthful, but his grandson tells him that that’s politically incorrect and insensitive to those birds that have expired. Peter replies, “Stuff and nonsense!”

Lil is unfortunately a widow and expects to expire soon after a nice, long life. Asking for anything more than 123 years just seems greedy, she thinks.

On sunny days she walks along the neglected grey footpath, marvelling at the city around her. She keeps her tinted UV protector bubble activated at all times. Old fashioned she may be, but her pale skin and the sun weren’t the best of friends before the remainder of the ozone layer did its disappearing act, like a bored guest at a party… so she is not taking any chances now.

The skyline of Melbourne from a distance is much the same, but like a small crop of wheat that has grown upwards, being fenced in by suburban grass on all sides. Up close though, everything has changed.

There are no waiting lines to get in anywhere, because people pre-book for everything, by law. Cigarette smoke and smog has taken a back seat, because the sun (thanks to the non-existent ozone layer) is more than capable of powering everything—and cigarettes have of course been outlawed. Perhaps most noticeable of all is that there is no sense of chaos anymore. Cars have long since gone, and everyone punches in their destination to a little keypad at the start of their journey so that collisions are all but eliminated (except when the computers melt down of course, but that’s too shocking to tell you). There are no horns blaring, and the music is in everyone’s own ears, so they’re not forced to listen to anything they don’t like, ever.

But Mrs Van Wyngaard keeps walking because four blocks east of her house, and five blocks south there is a park. One of the few parks left in the city (it’s extra special because the trees are made of recycled wood and green pained linen, rather than plastic). There is talk going round that somewhere far, far outside the city there is a park with real live trees, protected by a bubble containing a high oxygen concentrate. Dreamers discuss it with naïve hope but the realists dismiss it as urban legend, like mobile phones with actual buttons on them.

This park is buzzing. Everyone is walking or sitting or running. Lil shuffles past the ‘no hovering’ sign that is scrawled over with the graffiti ‘hovving rulz’. The hand writing is barely legible because iPads replaced handwriting in schools about two generations ago.

Lil finds her regular table and sits down, breathes a sigh of relief. Her friends at the table greet her. Some are absent today—maybe they have expired. But for right now Lil is alive; she is happy.

Smiling, she picks up the paint brush and dips into the oils, pulls a picture from her mind of an old farmhouse on a hill beside a river. The word ‘Hillegersberg’ is written on the white gate and there is a beautiful river garden hiding all her childhood friends.

She continues to paint.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Sincerely
Lil

 

Image: Alamar AV Communications, ‘Urban Melbourne’, <https://urban.melbourne/forum/melbournes-trams&gt;, sourced 31 May 2017.

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What is success?

 

Do you consider yourself successful?

The question is asked and you start to squirm in your seat. Do you? You glance round at the others, to see if they are as unsure as you. The question goes round the circle, making its way toward you, and you go back and forth between yes and no about six times each. I mean, you’re not a total loser, but then again, you have that university degree that you’re not even using yet. You don’t own a house. Your car is worth half of what the mechanic says it will cost to fix it. And to top it all off, you’re single.

Better go with no. It seems safer. Plus, you have the added bonus of not looking arrogant to the group. Decision made.

You’re actually one of the first ones to give your answer (a lot of mind changing can happen in a few short minutes).

You say no. When asked what would you have to do or achieve to consider yourself a success, you say, “Become a professional writer.”

Not until this moment have you realised that maybe one of the reasons you want a job in this field so badly is so that you can stop feeling like a failure. Maybe even the main reason. That every time someone says, “What do you do?” it translates to you as, “How much are you worth?” and the answer you keep coming up with is, “Not much.” What I do is not impressive. I sell clothes. No one dies if I don’t get up and go to work. They just buy at Target.

Somehow your successes in the field of retail never mean quite enough to you because you don’t need a degree to do it, and so many people refer to it as their job before they get a “real” job.

This particular Tuesday night last year as I sat on the bean bag I felt tears build slowly in my eyes. Listening to the answers of the rest of the group I suddenly broke in. “Can I change my answer?” in a tone that barely concealed the panic I was feeling.

“No.” Why did that word make the tears spill over?

The other people in the group all said yes. When asked why, the most memorable answer was one of the women saying, “I would consider yourself a success if people actually like you, and want to be around you. Do you have any good, solid friendships? You’ve certainly succeeded in something!”

The way my answer contrasted with the rest of them made me feel ten times the failure I had felt before and I was suddenly undone and exposed.

What had happened in my heart that I constantly held myself to this high standard of perfection? That I had set an arbitrary bar for success and anything that was below or in another area was all stamped with the words “try harder”. Why was my standard for myself so much higher than anyone else’s for me, and so different to what my creator had in mind? Just a hint, Lil. God wasn’t looking at Adam and Eve’s careers when he said, “It is very good.”

They were good because God made them, and they belonged to Him.

Now how many people would be successful in the world’s eyes just because they were created in the image of God? No career, no great wondrous achievements. Nothing to do with what they had done and everything to do with who they belonged to.

When God says in his word not to be conformed to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2), we can often view it as him telling us off, but what if (crazy thought, I know) he put that in the bible for our freedom? Think like me, because I actually see clearly, he says. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so far are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

 

What does God view as success?

Faith: without it it’s impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).

Love: He wants us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, as well as loving our neighbour as ourselves, according to Matthew 22:37-40. In fact, the whole Hebrew law is summed up in that one sentence.

How do we show our love, according to John 14:15? Obedience.

Do you have these three things? If you do, then you’re already a raging success in His eyes.

It’s not always the most seen and heard, the rich and famous, the bosses, the stage performers, the TV stars and the hit singers who God considers close friends.

Who was Mary, when Gabriel met her where she was at in order to have a talk with her about the saviour of all mankind?

Who was Abraham? Who was this young guy Jacob, fighting with his brother, when God called him?

Jesus was born in a stable for a reason, and it wasn’t the celebrities of the day that the angels first appeared to.

 

What a relief then, to realise that just because we haven’t followed the world’s trail of stepping stones for us, that all is not lost. Actually, nothing is.

Just keep saying ‘yes’ to Jesus, and the day he takes you home to heaven you can hear those wonderful words.

“Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and enter my rest.”

 

 

Sincerely,
Lil

 

Image 1: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/novelreadings/fear-of-failing/
Image 2: http://www.capital-moments.com/the-blueprint-of-success/

Our Beauty Legacy

 

What’s more powerful for your daughter’s self-esteem than telling her she’s beautiful? Not telling yourself you’re ugly in front of her. As the video in this blog post shows, if you ask many young girls and their mothers what they either don’t like about themselves or would change, the answers are incredibly similar.

Growing up my mother never told me I looked bad. Not once. But I would sometimes watch her criticising herself in the mirror and think, if what she’s got is bad, then is what I’ve got bad too? I am a mini version of her, after all.

It didn’t affect my sisters much at all to my knowledge and I’m happy to say that they have not struggled with low self-esteem. It’s also important to say that there are many factors when it comes to low self-esteem, and this wasn’t even the most significant one to affect me, but it did impact me to some degree and I’m committed to looking at all angles of self-esteem. I am not sharing this to make my mother or any mother feel bad. My mum is one of the many wonderful, strong, beautiful women that make this world a better place just by bringing their heart to it.

But I refuse to let this continue one generation further. This stops with me. Because the way we view ourselves affects our daughters, and our relationships, and the challenges we take on in life.

I’ve decided long ago that I won’t belittle myself in front of young girls, but then I caught myself some time back criticising my drawing as I was helping my 6 year old friend with some art. She immediately started to criticise hers too and I had to pull myself up and point out all the good things in my drawing, as well as hers.

The point is that even though I was aware of how quickly younger girls can see themselves in us, I still spoke negatively about myself. If we’re going to get this right for the sake of the generations to come, we need to be very intentional.

The first time I watched this video I bawled my eyes out because it resonated deeply with me. Mothers, I know all of you want to have the most positive impact on your daughter as humanly possible. And even if you don’t feel comfortable speaking well of your appearance, just try avoiding talking about all the features you dislike, because chances are your daughter has inherited at least some of them.

We were created by God, fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), and he didn’t make a mistake with our nose, our legs, our hair colour, our freckles. He saw fit to infuse it into our DNA so that it would be replicated in the next generation in a new and beautiful way, mixed with our husband’s features.

And He looked.

And He said, “IT IS VERY GOOD.”

 

Sincerely,
Lil

Caring for your sensitive

 

Are you sometimes wondering why all one of your friends seems to do is cry? A sad movie will get them, a book, even a commercial or a cute baby animal sometimes. This sounds familiar to you, right? How they like to be hugged every time you see them? The way you feel like you’ve wronged them when you forget something so seemingly trivial (to you) as the date of their birthday–not even on their birthday! How you live in constant fear of offending them or hurting them? Or some days: like you just can’t say anything to them?

This may be frustrating to you. You may want to just tell them to build a bridge and get over it. You may want to tell them to grow some thicker skin. And you may want to tell them to just go jump. What you’re dealing with is a sensitive person. And there are certain things you need to know.

 

Why are they like this?

Like introverts, the world tends to sometimes bash on sensitive people. Especially sensitive males. Why can’t you man up like everyone else? Why does this hurt you? And to girls: why do you have to cry so much? Tough people want everyone else to be tough like them, because they are insensitive in many ways and want to be able to say what they like and not have to deal with someone crying at their “honest opinion.” And don’t get me wrong, I love those tougher people. I live with one, and she has helped me learn many things. But she has also had to learn—and I think is still learning—how to take care of me. Because the criteria for sensitive people is different.

 

What do you need to know? Part One:

Although I may have scared you (or you might have been scared long before this) there is a flip side to everything I’ve just said—a good side. While they are sensitive on one end of the spectrum (as receivers), they are also sensitive on the other end (as givers). Some people would say that either way you look at it, sensitive people are at a risk. Sensitive people have a lot to lose. A positive, sensitive person, like me, would also say that we have a lot to gain, but the risk is never eliminated (nor can it be). We are sensitive to other people’s moods, energy levels and needs. We are so affected by the people around us, and because our hearts can be penetrated by almost anything, we feel a lot of empathy toward others. We would be willing to do anything for the people closest to us—even people not so close. Because our hearts go out to people. We see suffering and it kills us. I know for myself, I cry when my friends cry before I even know the reason.

 

What do you need to know (and never forget)? Part Two:

In this world there are givers and takers. Sensitive people are almost always givers. However, because we so often are, you need to learn not to use this to your own gain. If you take advantage, these people will let you, so don’t. Because in my books that makes you a bad person. When someone offers you everything and you just take it all and run. That is not fair, and it is not acceptable.

 

So how do you deal with this “overly emotional, touchy-feely” person?

I know that I as a person, whether I like it or not, need to be taken care of. I always have been. My male friends in high school used to pat me on the head and call me delicate. And I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me that they live in constant fear of hurting me, and that they would hate themselves if they did. All that sensitive people need from you, is a little extra thought. Do they look like they’ve had a rough day? Could they use a hug? Is it important to them whether I keep my appointment with them? Do they care whether I remember their birthday? Some small amounts of taking a little more care, and a little less for granted, would go a long way—and leave you with less crying messes on your hands!

A little more thought so that everyone wins.

 

Sincerely,
Lil

 

Image: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/sensitive-quotes/?lp=true

The double standard most people ignore

 

Who is your worst critic? Maybe it’s your mother, or an older sibling, but most likely it’s the person staring you in the mirror. Why are we so much harsher with ourselves, particularly in the areas of looks and achievements, than we are with other people?

I had a customer at work this week who tried on a fitted black dress because her friend’s daughter had invited her to be a guest at her Debutante ball. She was probably in her late 40’s and as we assessed the suitability of the dress for the event she started to point out all the tiny details of what was “wrong” with her. The greys in her hairline, the size of her bottom, the curve of her stomach, the crow’s feet around her eyes. It was all news to me because even though I was staring hard into the same mirror I literally hadn’t seen those things until she pointed them out. All I saw was a lovely, beautiful woman who had that special, comforting mum-vibe that only comes with years of experience and triumphing in hard times (people think that their gentleness of spirit cannot be seen by those who don’t know them, but it’s not true). And I realised that’s how the rest of the world probably sees her too. But she is walking around thinking people are thinking things that they aren’t, assuming they are zeroing in on her minute faults, and judging her for them. And it is damaging her self-esteem. Her own thoughts are hurting her.

Image result for beautiful women low self-esteem

I’ve realised a long time ago that working in women’s fashion, it’s not how the garment actually looks, it’s how a woman feels about herself in it. Because, as I explained to a new team member the other day, if she doesn’t feel good about herself in it, even if she buys it she will barely ever wear it because she feels her flaws are exposed in it.

We spend so much time trying to cover our true selves, with concealer, spanks and baggy clothes (usually black, because it’s slimming, right?) because we’re afraid the world will not accept us as we are. This is a fair assumption, considering the advertising industry spends most of its money and energy telling us that we’re not good enough.

I’m reminded of another encounter as a shopper this time. I was with my friend in the U.S. about four years ago and she came out of the change rooms and asked me what I thought of the outfit she was wearing. I said, “I think it looks like you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re a woman.” Yay for honesty. She actually got quite emotional and began to open up about some deep insecurities she has about the way she looks, and how she doesn’t feel she can wear fitted clothes. That New Year’s Eve she sent me a proud photo, wearing a dress that showed her lovely feminine figure in a completely classy way. Another victory.

She was liberated to be who she was as a woman. That would be my prayer for every woman. Stop judging yourself so harshly, ladies! You are beautiful, and wonderful, and knowing that is powerful.

Trust me, most men don’t see all the little flaws either. One of my friends said her husband has asked her to stop pointing out all her miniscule imperfections because he hadn’t even noticed them.

Here’s an idea: start viewing yourself the way you view other women – as strong and beautiful and worth envying.

Dove tends to agree with me that women are more beautiful than they think…

Sincerely,
Lil (a beautiful daughter of the King)

 

Images sourced 4 May 2017
http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/631289/revealed-womens-shocking-top-daily-self-criticisms