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« flawed perfection | Main | Falling On Your Head »

learning to self-illuminate

This was my concern when I discussed vanity: my skin tone.  I wanted it to reflect light; for illumination meant I was sustaining the life-force. The day my face took on a dull gray finish I knew my energy was going down and I had to do something. Unless I was slated to be the first female emblazoned onto Mount Rushmore, this low-grade granite tone I emitted had to go. But truth be, I was exhausted going nowhere on the circuitous route I'd taken. What I needed was a goal in which to channel my energy; shore up my resources; focus. That meant walking on the straight and narrow, which didn't exist anywhere on my personal topography until Wednesday April 22, 2015 at 10 AM. 

That was the time I got an inkling, while working with middle school kids from Danville, California, with a packed itinerary, demanding at all times I had my watch handy. And it was 8 am when I stepped onto the coach, grabbed the microphone and said, "Hello. My name’s Jane. Call me Jane. Never ‘the guide.’ I’m larger than my function. ”

Whether they understood or not, I didn't care. I needed their attention and when I got all their eyes I resumed.  “The only reasons your phones are out are:you're taking photos, looking up information to see if I what I had said was correct, or you're speaking to the President. Am I clear?"

At the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, after I'd given them a tour, I offered ten minutes of free-time; with constrictions. “No one may do drugs” I directed through pursed lips. “Or get tattoos” offered now with a cold stare.” Nor go into anyone’s trunk." That one had extreme gravitas and I strangled my giggle.

If only the clock would tick backwards and I could begin again at their age.     

Then everyone dispersed, save three girls. They came up to me with dispatch, me thinking what they were saying next would be of some import. It was "You’re old.” From their perspective I was. I said, "Thank you." Then I wondered "was it a complaint" but they stood there smiling saying next, “And fashionable. We’ve been studying you. You’d do well on Instagram. Give us your phone. We’ll download the app; show you how to upload. You must write as you speak: be funny and make us think.”

Mesmerized by their surety, I complied. The benefit for my participation became clear. They offered me a goal. Forget that it was ludicrous, superficial and mundane; I needed to practice. And when they asked what I'd call myself  “Clothing is character all one word no spaces, ” came out as if lying-in-wait for the chance. 

Next: a photo opp, in the quasi-dark, by a niche with no markings, producing a dismal shot, which got three likes: those cherubs. The task, though, of accumulating images proved to be daunting. 

When I was working or with a friend, I had a ready ally, but most days I was alone. No way was I doing a selfie. What was in order was to develop a technique that would elicit assistance, which was going over to anyone clear-eyed, young, not on crutches, nor wearing earphones and carrying a phone. I'd say, “Can you take a photo? For my fourteen year old followers on Instagram. Do a burst and when you're bored, stop." And whatever was produced went up; one day at a time.  No beauty contest here.  

Even when strangers rejected me, remembering that woman carrying an air-conditioner who thought I was crazy, and those two teenagers who ran away screaming, I went on to another. For my point was to understand structure, develop perseverance with consistency, and produce something, which was 500 posts and more than 500 followers.

There was my pay-off.  

Meanwhile, the universe added another dimension. It was August 7 when I got that e-mail.  It was from Yuri who lived in Moscow. The subject line had Cyrillic letters and then a colon: “New York tour.” Inside, in perfect English, he requested one for he and is wife Maria, who followed me on Instagram.      

August 14, in the lobby of the Hotel Chatwell , waiting for them, I glimpsed myself in a corner mirror, appearing as if swathed in glitter; not a shred of gray near.       

That's what comes from learning how to self-illuminate.     

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Reader Comments (17)

Please send me your e-mail if you wish me to have it. Mine were lost migrating from Outlook Express to Outlook.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjane

You are a shining light wherever you go! Goal achieved! You have a wonderful ability to look at yourself and others with a sensitive humor, insight and bright uplifting side of what is day in the life of Jane. Thank you! I loved it.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJudyL

Jane....Love it...you are so good for the youth of the country. Lois

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLois

Jane: I love your stories about interaction with kids who give you their gift of honesty from their world. And I love that you follow their advice. I'm not so sure I would have--and that doesn't reflect positively on me. But Judy and I did celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary last Saturday, Aug 27, with a happy party that included friends, relatives, and neighbors aged from 3 to somewhere near 90. And the night before, when I told my granddaughters, ages 11 and almost 10, that we'd like to give them our cameras at the party so they could go around and take pictures of people, they grinned and said, "Sure! We can do that!" About an hour into the party, I had seen the girls talking to a great variety of people, many of whom had heard my stories about them. When they came near, I said, "Ready for the cameras?" "No," they said, "we want to visit!" (Later they photographed for about half an hour, and then they went back into the crowd to visit some more.) Glad you are still enjoying giving your tours, and I hope you are well.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDen Adler

Thank you Jane for brightening my afternoon with this lovely story. Just like cameras I suppose children do reflect ourselves back to ourselves. Really smart piece.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Koslow

It was a joy to read your new story with interaction with all those students that come to see and hear you. Just a
note to say "Happy Birthday" tomorrow, and never think you are old. Just go by what you feel in your heart. You
know I am 91 by calendar but by my heart I am 40.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAleene Block

Oh my,my. What a joy to read especially as a teacher I can relate to students. As mentioned before I enjoy your writings immensely. Continue to do what you do best, Happy Birthday to a wonderful human being.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHalbert

Your light shines through in your pictures and in your soul. That's why we can all see it. Listening to students gives us insight we might otherwise never experience. Your Instagram photos tell a fabulous story along with your tag line and all those who like you. Granite/grey is not your color. Have a great birthday and keep your shining brightly. Everything about you is colorful.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnita

Who needs skin tone when writing enlightens like yours?!

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I loved hearing from you today..You always have a glow about you and.hearing from you always bring light into my life....Those kids will never forget you, that is a certainty!!! We're having beautiful weather. but I wonder if you are,or will be getting the effects of the system now travelling up the coast. Always thinking of you!!! love, Lu.Ann

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLuAnn

September 1, 2016. I always look forward to your delightful blogs. I wish I could come back to NYC to see you
again. However, I turned 77 two weeks ago and my "get up and go" isn't getting up or going either one. I just
have to remember what fun it was to be on your tour. I remember that you made a joke about your name and I was the
only one on the bus who got it. The evening before, our tour guide told everyone that Jane Seymore would be leading our tour of the city the next day. Jane "ReMarx" was too much for some folks to decipher. Tip

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTip Biggs

Ever since I met you, you have always been full of light and color!

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAleta

For forty-three years you have illuminated my life.

September 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy

I love that you live life full out embracing new things!

September 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Shining example of your brilliance... Can't we hear more examples of your interactions with children !!

September 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterFizulu

You are the most Gigantic Shining Light in our Universe !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And when you wear Gold and all your other colors, the Iris Apfel of Tour Guides !!!!!!!! You are on all the always right tracks ! Keep on Beaming and write every day. Establish the discipline you've done on your daily Instagram with your writing !!!!!!!! You know I love you and adore you !!!!!!!

September 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMikey

Youth keeps you youthful and helps you find purpose, as you help others find theirs. Work well done in more ways than one.

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

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