Thursday, 30 June 2011

Playing the Glad Game

I love that, when we were children almost everybody read the classics: Beatrix Potter, Heidi, Wind in the Willows, Little Woman, Pollyanna and I'm sure that you can name a dozen more. Do you remember reading Pollyanna? I adored this story. I was so enchanted by Pollyanna's prisms & her sunshiny nature & the Glad Game. It was a story of cheery hope. The naive little girl in me believed that if I just created a rainbow or two & played the glad game long enough, all would be well in my world.
From Eleanor Porter's delightful tale...
"Pollyanna had not hung up three of the pendants in the sunlit window before she saw a little of what was going to happen. She was so excited then she could scarcely control her shaking fingers enough to hang up the rest. But at last her task was finished, and she stepped back with a low cry of delight. It had become a fairyland--that sumptuous, but dreary bedroom. Everywhere were bits of dancing red and green, violet and orange, gold and blue. The wall, the floor, and the furniture, even to the bed itself, were aflame with shimmering bits of color. "Oh, oh, oh, how lovely!" breathed Pollyanna; then she laughed suddenly. "I just reckon the sun himself is trying to play the game now, don't you?"
she cried, forgetting for the moment that Mr. Pendleton could not know what she was talking about. "Oh, how I wish I had a lot of those things! How I would like to give them to Aunt Polly and Mrs. Snow and--lots of folks.
 I recko
n then they'd be glad all right! Why, I think even Aunt Polly'd get so glad she couldn't help banging doors if she lived in a rainbow like that. Don't you?"
 Mr. Pendleton laughed. "Well, from my remembrance of your aunt, Miss Pollyanna, I must say I think it would take something more than a few prisms in the sunlight to--to make her bang many doors--for gladness. But come, now, really, what do you mean?"
Pollyanna stared slightly; then she drew a long breath. "Oh, I forgot. You don't know about the game. I remember now."

Pollyanna & I have a lot in common, losing parents & being "taken in" by others, but also being rather frank & truthful. My very young parents were heading for disaster right from the start of their unsupported, early 60's marriage. The violent & shattering ending to this short-lived union, ruined my mothers well-being & instilled a life long shame of abandonment & unwantedness in me. I went from a happy little vintagey life with wee blue houndstooth school bag, containing delicious squishy cucumber & tomato sandwiches, to a life of cold mashed potato with hard uncooked lumps in it, no seasoning & no butter, not on your life! There were no hugs, kisses, explanations or kindness & I grew up with the words "if you can't say anything good DON'T say anything at all" ringing in my ears. The insistent voices of condemning censure have almost done my head in as I write this.."shut up!!", "surely you're over all that by now!!!"...on & on & on they deride me, hissing about family loyalty. Our carpets (as it turned out) were never anything but made of eggshells & peace never returned to our "family". The last time I saw my mother was in an ambulance on her way to hospital. I couldn't talk to her the next day, or the next week or the next year, in fact, I didn't see her again properly until I was nearly 30.
As a child I did not grieve & I cannot tell you why.
Now, 45 years later..
 I have been surrounded by grayness for days & days..I thought it would pass & life would resume but their is a certain shade of gloom surrounding me & there are monsters under my bed. 
Somewhere, there seems to have been another "earthquake" & the emotional liquefaction has forced it's way to the surface once more & covered my life with the gritty, acrid dietrius of grief.

I'm sure that most of you know how fairies came about-
but I wonder if you also know, that since time began, all mothers have come with an indelible, invisible stamp-
The hidden stamp can only be revealed when touched by the tears of a child or of angels.

If you happen to have got a dud (mother), please know, that this occurrence is actually quite rare. There is, however, little that can be done about it at this time...very sorry!
My brother has no recollection of these things as he was not much more than a baby at the time, but my saving grace (& I absolutely mean by the grace of God) was my unlikely meeting of Rob when I was 17.
I have since become an explorer of truth & beauty. People are quite happy with the last part I find, just not so comfy with the first bit. My dedication to truth has enabled me to navigate 30 years of marriage despite massive obstacles; my pursuit of beauty has given meaning to my life & healed a great many things.
Soon after we moved in to this house I was to find a string of prisms hanging in a secondhand shop in Titirangi in Auckland. Of course I absolutely HAD to bring them home-

I am sad to say that I rather gave up on the glad just wasn't working. Not pitted against the enormous mountain of widespread dysfunction & corrosive indifference that surrounded my life for decades (church included). It has now come time for me to play the game again. If your life is all good & wonderful, you most likely don't have much call for the game, but for those of us who struggle it is a very good game. Pollyanna explains it to her aunt's maid Nancy this way-
"Pollyanna laughed again, but she sighed, too; and in the gathering twilight her face looked thin and wistful.
"Why, we began it on some crutches that came in a missionary barrel.
"Yes. You see I'd wanted a doll, and father had written them so; but when the barrel came the lady wrote that there hadn't any dolls come in, but the little crutches had. So she sent 'em along as they might come in handy for some child, sometime. And that's when we began it."
"Well, I must say I can't see any game about that," declared Nancy, almost irritably.
"Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about--no matter what 'twas," rejoined Pollyanna, earnestly. "And we began right then--on the crutches."
"Well, goodness me! I can't see anythin' ter be glad about--gettin' a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll!"
Pollyanna clapped her hands.
"There is--there is," she crow
ed. "But I couldn't see it, either, Nancy, at first," she added, with quick honesty. "Father had to tell it to me."
"Well, the
n, suppose you tell me," almost snapped Nancy.
"Goosey! Why, just be glad because
you don't--need--'em!" exulted Pollyanna, triumphantly. "You see it's just as easy--when you know how!"
"Well, of all the queer doin's!" breathed Nancy, regarding Pollyanna with almost fearful eyes.
"Oh, but it isn't queer--it's lovely," maintained Pollyanna enthusiastically. "And we've played it ever since. And the harder 'tis, the more fun 'tis to get 'em out; only--only sometimes it's almost too hard--like when your father goes to Heaven, and there isn't anybody but a Ladies' Aid left." 

Last week Rob & I watched The New Pollyanna (2003). We utterly adored it!!
I must just say that the Glad Game is not precisely the same thing as doing gratitude lists & keeping thankfulness diaries. For instance I am very grateful for my husband & his faithfulness & friendship & that he has settled in to a new job, however, the new job came with the challenging implications that he has now worked through a whole year of almost all afternoon shifts. Which means he goes to work for 3pm & gets home around 11.45pm. Now, considering that I am still plagued by bouts of abandonment & loneliness this did not seem at all ideal BUT we decided to be glad because it meant that we got to see each other every morning, go for walks, have coffee together, Rob could help me sell the fruit while I got my gardening work done & I could spend time doing blogging & stuff in the evenings while he was gone. It is very strange cooking dinner for myself & sometimes it's hard, but it's working & I'm so glad.
Please do take this wee button if you'd like to join in the game & it appeals to you. Or perhaps if your are quite clever you could fix the white background bit..that would be better.
This post may well not have been at all what you expected. Thank you so much for being here (if you got this far) & wading through my ramblings.
As it turns out this is a Catholic prayer. I heard it for the first time this week. I think it is so beautiful.
 O Angel's of God from heaven so bright,
 watching beside my children to lead them aright;
 fold your wings around them & guard them with love;
 softly sing songs to them of heaven above.
May He guard you with His love this week & always.
Catherine X0X0


  1. I think most of us are still the child that was hurt or scarred by something I know I was.I was fortunate tho toi have a good mum albiet one that had her own chikdhood demons that still affect her now at her old age.
    I have had alot of things happen over the last few years that have not helped me with noy laways lookung at bright side of life -monty python and is one I have always tried to do.
    As an avid child reader (no TVs for us) I read and loved Pollyanna and what Katy did and heidi and Little women as well and what they all did when they grew up and had kids and loved them all.
    I must get pollyanna out for the kids to watch soon.
    Lovely post and thanks for sharing I am sorry you didnt get the love you should have as a child((((hugs))))

  2. Thank you for your lovely comment Nelly. I really appreciate it. Yes do get Pollyanna out for the kids the 2003 version was especially just great. X

  3. Oh, Catherine. I love your heart and your soul. I feel like you are a treasured friend, just too far away! I wish you were my neighbor. We'd have so much fun. I'm going to play The Glad Game for sure. Today! You are so wise and have a true mother's heart, full of conviction and truth. My first encounter with Pollyanna was a Little Golden Book found in a log cabin bookshelf. My auntie had a big family gathering at the beach and because everyone had big families and there were too many kids around, I being a more solitary soul, tucked into a lumpy sofa by the fireplace and became fascinated with the story. I shall be taking care of little Millie today and Kelli has the movie. I'm watching it again for sure. Thank you for your dear honesty and your deep inspiration that comes with it. LOVE.

  4. Hi C! Back to tell you that I linked to you in today's post and I am putting The Glad Game on my sidebar. LOVE this!

  5. Why is it I wonder that some of us seem to have these dark times and others seem completely unaffected by them? I think playing the glad game is a beautiful idea. I too feel very lonely at times and can imagine how you feel when your husband has gone to work, but as you say how lovely that you now get to spend your mornings together.

    I've just listened the the cello music, how wonderful, how I wished I hadn't given up on the cello as a teenager! It was far too difficult to haul it to school on three different buses. Perhaps it can be something I do once my pains are better. They say 'Never too late'.

    {hugs} to you Catherine and thank you for reminding me to check out your gorgeous blog for the music link. :-) I haven't been very good at blog reading lately, which is silly really as I really love reading all of what you write, it comes from the heart and to the heart.

  6. Well Catherine, I had a 'dud' my poor old mum played games of mental cruelty but somehow I loved her, our childhood was very insecure, poor in terms of money and affection and yet we came through it, but like you I have come out a bit mis-shapen! I would like to play the gladness game - infact,I have been doing it all my life so will be quite good at it (my frequent thankfulness posts are a sort of glad game I think). My youngest brother has been in counselling for several years to come to terms with some of the things that 'happened' to us, the other seems totally indifferent as he learned like me to shut things out - I think I can be glad that I am alive, have been able to produce such beautiful children and have a husband whose background was not unlike mine, so we are good for each other. I will put the glad game on my blog, there's always plenty to be glad about I find these days! Bettyx

  7. There are no words I can offer you that will take away the pain of your childhood. But there are words of a friend who hears what you are saying and wishes with everything she can that you only know happiness, love, beauty, laughter, peace and joy as you continue in this journey we call life.
    Despite our grief, despair, pain, hurt, sorrow, anquish and misery of days past, our lives now are what we make them and that is what you are doing. You are creating a life that you want filled with love and beauty. You are not allowing the past to dictate what you are. The past has no power over us only if we allow it to be so.
    Your childhood experiences allow you to know now what it is to truly love, to be truly compassionate, to be truly happy because you have gone through times without those things in your life.
    Having a partner in life who understands us is one of the most amazing gifts we have been given. Someone who is not threatened by our insecurities, who is patient and loving. We are very lucky Catherine to have these amazing men in our lives.
    I hope the sun is shining in your life today, that you see the beauty surrounding you and have peace and calm in your world.
    Have a lovely weekend,
    Anne xx

  8. Dear Catherine, I wish I had a magic wand that could take away your sadness. I have thought about you since reading yesterday, and wanted to offer some wonderful words of wisdom that would ease your heartache, you, I think are doing the best you can to do this. Your glad game is a very good way to look at life and I will definitely be trying it. I send you instead, a heartfelt hug across the oceans, mixed in with some love, an awful lot of kindness, with a smidgen of faery wishes. May your dark times pass quickly, you are a beautiful person, strive to be happy...(the desiderata). We cannot control what another does to us , but we can control who we want to be, xx

  9. This post of yours is very powerful, and I was drawn deeply into it.
    I feel so sorry for you, and others who face challenges that some of us don't have to deal with.

    Thank you for sharing these deepest thoughts and feelings and experiences.

  10. Hello Katie,
    I have often wondered about the origins of your "abandonment". Thank you for filling in the gaps.
    For allowing us to fit the pieces together, because we really do care!
    I too play the Glad game, and lately I am so fortunate to be able to play it easily. So I make hay when the sun shines. As you are doing.
    And the way you write is just so thought provoking, even on your "black dog days". Perhapse more so then.
    You have a gift.
    I wish you were my neighbour too, so i could share "the Granny" with you over the garden gate (minding out for the cows!)
    Love Jacqui

  11. Oh dear Catherine
    my heart goes out to you.

    I was so lucky and had the happiest childhood surrounded by love.

    All children deserve a safe, secure and loving home.
    And all children deserve to be children, without worries or fears.

    I had many books but not Pollyanna and I still haven't read it so guess what - I'm off to the library tomorrow to borrow it!

    Your strength of spirit is incredible and I daresay your wonderful imagination was created out of a desperate need when you were very young.
    Thank God for Pollyanna and similar books - I wonder if the authors ever imagined what an important part they would play in some childrens lives.

    You're a wonderful writer and I would love to see you writing a book - especially one involving your fairies - because if it touches one little child as Pollyanna touched you - you will have created a masterpiece.

    You have really touched my heart today, thank you Catherine.
    With love

  12. Your post really touched me, thank you for sharing such openness and honesty. Sometimes I let my own issues get the better of me, but I try very hard to play the glad game and your post has reminded me to try a little harder x


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