To be chosen as someone’s mentor is a deep honour, one that has happened to me only once. Does a part-time mentor count? A greater privilege still is to have a mentor yourself. Evidently there was actually an ancient Greek called Mentor who started it all. (No not the minotaur, that was something completely different and altogether less helpful.) I owe so much to my mentors, one of whom, Janice Howarth, passed on last year on the 7th June. Numbers play a large part in my life and to me it’s significant that my other mentor has a birthday the day before my late mother’s birthday on the 6th June, and Janice passed away the day after. It’s as if there is a confirmation that these two are my Other Mothers, just like I have Other Brothers.
Janice was wise, wicked, wonderfully warm but irreverent in the way that deeply spiritual people have. There was a sense of mischief for which the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu are also well-known. I have never met anyone less judgmental than Janice. I think to have someone in one’s life who is twenty years older than you are is about the right age gap for a mentor. It’s so encouraging to know that they’ve been through life’s darkest valleys (and I mean really dark – the kind that make most people crack) and there they are smiling along, taking it all so much less seriously by now.
Once I was grimly pressing on through a crisis that was assuming immense proportions in my mind, only to be brought up short by an evil giggle from Janice and a sidelong glance: ‘You’re going through hell aren’t you.’ And yes of course, it was about a man, my pain was self-inflicted and she had the ability to help me to shrug it off to agonise about on another day. For now, there was fun to be had, and this day wasn’t coming back. Ever. Another time I was making a total fool of myself (over a different man) and when I later gently picked on her for not stopping my ridiculous behaviour, she matter-of-factly replied that it’s a complete waste of time reasoning with a woman whose hormones are yelling harder.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to say goodbye. With both my mentors, I have an excellent telepathic link, and on the Sunday before she went, I had an incredibly strong urge to phone her. But for whatever reason, I didn’t. Then it became so overpowering that I phoned that Thursday only to have her boyfriend answer the cell. He’d been trying without success to get hold of me but my cell number had changed. She’d been in a coma the entire week before she left us on the Monday in the week I phoned, and the funeral was next day, on the Friday. It was impossible for me to attend. What I’ve learned is to take hunches seriously, especially if the thought comes back again and again, even if it seems random to begin with. This is becoming a habit now and if it was the last thing she taught me, I will learn it well. It’s already saved me a lot of hassle.
There was no end to Janice’s naughtiness and kindness, her openness to new ideas and her great capacity for love. I shall miss my compadre for the rest of my life and I hope I’ll be able to act on the inspiration she was. Even now, the memory of her consoles me in that I ask myself ‘What would Janice have done?’ And sometimes all it needs to clarify my thinking is to follow her example and lighten up.
We’ll have a lot to catch up on, but in the meantime I have some very stylish high heels to follow. Strange – that came out initially as high ‘heals’ – Janice? Was that you?