A Full Head

Queen Elizabeth I (reigning 1558-1603 in England) was fluent in 6 languages, studied the Classics and history for 2-3 hours daily, and wrote poetry. She was a skilled musician as well as dancer; for exercise every morning she practiced demanding dances, The Galliard or The Volta (which requires leaping ladies). The scholarly and athletic queen also loved being outside and taking long walks. She was a skilled huntress and enjoyed daily horseback rides. When her horses were not fast enough, her Master of Horse found fresh mounts from Ireland.

When Elizabeth was a tender 2 ½-year-old princess, her 35-year-old mother was beheaded at the Tower of London — Anne Boleyn’s grave error was in giving birth to a daughter instead of a son. Likewise, an 18-year-old step-mother, Catherine Howard, was executed at the Tower when Elizabeth was only 8-years-old. Before casting criticism, we might address why hammer-attacks to Paul Pelosi’s head occurred in 2022.  

Due to crass political scheming, Princess Elizabeth also became a prisoner of the dreaded Tower of London and narrowly escaped losing her 21-year-old head. She ascended to a 45-year throne as the Elizabethan Queen at age 25 when her half-sister, Queen Mary I, died.

It is no wonder that one of Queen Elizabeth I’s surviving poems (On Monsieur’s Departure) dwells on opposing states of mind: “…I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate. / I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned, / Since from myself another self I turned….”

Poets have understood throughout the ages that one’s mind is a concoction of cognitions and emotions that shift. Consider these lines from Stanley Kunitz’s The Layers: I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, / and I am not who I was, / though some principle of being / abides, from which I struggle / not to stray….”

Stanley Kunitz became Poet Laureate of the U.S. in 1974 and was appointed a second time in 2000 at the age of 95 when he was still publishing and promoting poetry! The last line of The Layers sets his intention to keep growing: “…I am not done with my changes.” Kunitz died at age 100, but at 98-years-young he kept growing, even in his dreams! One remembered dream embraced change: “…there seems to be a transformation going on in which I have a sense of a new life that I’m possessing…I feel I have found myself, my strength.”

This finding of strength acknowledges an inner self, soul or spirit in each of us that can hold onto a peaceful centering regardless of life’s traumas and transformations. We might think of this grounded calmness as an opening to access a full heart and a “full head” capable of growth.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

131. How often do you stop to notice that your thoughts and emotions about a given topic shift in opposing directions?

132. What are some times when you experience a full heart and full head?  

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

1 comment

  1. Oh my goodness, Jan, this speaks so to my state of being these days! I appreciate your wisdom in writing!

    Hugs galore for sure, Mary Rose

    Mary Rose Lambke, M.S., R.N. maryrose38@icloud.com 630 215.6213

    “We are learning that a standard of social ethics is not attained by traveling a sequestered byway, but by mixing on the thronged and common road where all must turn out for one another, and at least see the size of one another’s burdens.” -Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics, 1898



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