It’s not easy to write the kind of book that Jamaican-born coach and facilitator Marguerite Orane has produced. It may look easy to write a thoughtful but cheerful memoir (of sorts) that “keeps it real” about family, migration and ageing. But to get the right tone – not to be too self-indulgent, but to be open enough to draw the reader in – is not a simple task. It is a bit of a balancing act, in fact. Actually, I sense that the author’s life (so far) has been just that – all about balancing. I think we women do a lot of it, almost subconsciously.
I recently met Marguerite at the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) Christmas sale in Kingston. She was signing and selling copies of her book “Forget It! What’s the Point?” which has the subtitle “Letting Go and Claiming Joy.” She kindly signed a copy for me. She was flying back “home” to Toronto, Canada, where she currently lives, the following day – which prompted a little chat about the meaning of that word. For immigrants like her (and me) it can be complicated.
Marguerite tackles the “home” dilemma rather nicely in her chapter titled “From Home.” They are short chapters, each subtitled with a brilliant Jamaican proverb (which her dear friend Yvonne McCalla Sobers helped her select). This one was :
Learn fi dance a yard before yuh dance abroad.
This means, roughly, that one should learn skills at home before one does the same elsewhere. Practice. I’m not sure that I had practised moving to Jamaica over thirty years ago; but we were, in fact, ready to do so. Clearly, also, Marguerite was ready to move to Canada in 2009, for all sorts of reasons. She is now a Canadian citizen. She was despondent about Jamaica, her birthplace, and its failed promise. The education system has failed young people, she believes; they are “ill-prepared for the economic needs of the 21st century.” She felt disappointed in her country and concerned for her fast-growing children’s future. Yes, this can happen: disillusionment, a sort of regretful, almost reluctant falling out of love with the country of one’s birth.
To be a Jamaican who has migrated overseas, and who sees people’s faces light up when the name of one’s country is mentioned, must be a strange experience. As Marguerite observed, Jamaica almost holds magic in others’ eyes. I have noticed this when travelling, and people ask us where we are from. When we were staying in Vermont in October, we almost had an aura around us, in this quiet small state. A kind of glamour, even! “They’re from Jamaica.”
Yet…Marguerite observes: “Yet, Jamaica does not nurture, and so many Jamaicans succeed in spite of, not because of.”
As for “home” – like Marguerite, I also experience “a strange feeling of detachment” when I return to the country of my birth. Like her, there are places with strong personal, family memories for me. However, I feel a step removed – almost a tourist in my own country. Next time we go (apart from visiting sister, grandchildren, sons, and my parents’ grave) I would like us to do just that – embrace our quasi-tourist status and do some sightseeing. Otherwise, it begins to feel like an awkward peeking through a window into the past – from a very different present – and finding the panes of glass distort things. It’s not clear, any more.
There were several things that I could personally relate to in Marguerite’s story. Her thoroughly enjoyable family stories are her own – but I could personally relate to her accounts of working from home, having one’s own space and time to enjoy (something I have done for the last few years); her love of coffee (yes, it is a special love!) with a very detailed account of how she makes it; her leaning towards a spiritual grounding; and her love for her dogs. There is even one chapter in which she tries to figure out how her dogs felt about moving to Canada, the hours of separation. “Do dogs know emotions? Do they consciously choose them?” I often wonder what my devoted dog Freddie is “thinking” when he gazes straight into my eyes. I guess it’s just plain love.
So, where does the title come in? It was a frequent comment made by Marguerite’s beloved mother Daisy. Marguerite describes the stress – and the guilt – of losing a family heirloom, a diamond earring, and breaking her mother’s favourite mug. It’s hard to let go of the small things. Since my parents died I have had similar problems; I cling to small things – some of them very small, like the St. Christopher my own mother always carried with her when she was travelling. There are small everyday things – words unsaid, deeds undone, commitments unfulfilled – that worry me, in the back of my mind, almost on a daily basis. I try to banish them. What’s the point? Goodness, we women also love to feel guilty, don’t we, though…
It’s all about perspective. In the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter, Marguerite’s mother wisely pointed out. It’s all “water under the bridge.” What matters is the Now. And, as the Jamaican proverb goes:
What a fi yu, cyaan be un fi you.
What is yours, cannot no longer be yours. We still own that little thing, that memory, the love that surrounded it. So, why worry, because that love is still there…
You can find Marguerite on Instagram and Facebook (marguerite.orane) and on Twitter @margueriteorane. She also writes a blog at http://www.margueriteorane.com. Or email her at email@example.com. She is also the author of Free and Laughing: Spiritual Insights in Every Day Moments, in which she presents six principles: Be Present, Observe, Release, Accept, Trust and Love.
By the way, Marguerite’s older brother is Douglas Orane, the now-retired former Chairman and CEO of GraceKennedy Limited. He formally retired from the Board on May 30 this year. I attended the launch of Mr Orane’s book – The Business of Nation Building: Excerpts from the Selected Speeches of Douglas Orane – back in May 2016 and reviewed the book here.