The answer is…

It’s Easter. Religious or not it feels like a time for thanks and love and new beginnings.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I just read an article and I’m smitten. I love the magazine Psychologies. It’s a little pricey but every time I read it I carry something new forward .

This time there was an article that really could’ve been written by me. It was by a woman who had moved three times in the last twelve months. Same as me. But i’d moved four times.

Like me, she was drowning in stuff. Every time I moved I’m packing away stuff in cupboards that I don’t use. But I can’t get rid of. It’s embarrassing. Not sentimental stuff. I’m talking pans and dishes that I never use. Three bags of plastic bags. Paint and brushes. Old kettles. A pink bin. A broken  but much loved wrought iron lamp. A redundant bike rack. Photos I don’t know what to do with. Shoes I’ve never worn.

I honestly have felt ashamed at the ‘stuff’. Not just ashamed but angry. How many hours have I worked for this stuff that I don’t want. Or need!

So I took the pledge. That I don’t buy anything new for myself for a month. I can buy food and petrol and essential house stuff. I can buy birthday gifts for others but nothing for me. Nothing new.

Surprisingly a week in it’s ok. But it’s a huge learning curve. The other day I cleared out the box room in my new house . It was floor to ceiling full of boxes of ‘stuff’. I emptied it. Then. I got in the car to go to the local store to buy more ‘stuff’ for it. When I was there I found myself asking. Do I ‘need’ a new door handle? Do I ‘need’ new curtains? Do I ‘need’ a new pillow and duvet? I stood there and realised that most of these things were already at home. I went home empty handed.

I found the heart shaped pink cushion and the duvet that just needed a new cover. I found frames that I could fill with photos I already had. I put in a new fuse for the lamp that had been due to be binned.  I unearthed some throws hidden in the blanket box. The folded chair under the stairs went perfectly with the upcycled bureau. An oval cream mirror from the charity shop and a tea light cream holder that I hadn’t found a home for finished it off. A new room. All from things I already had.

So. Here I am seven days into the month of not buying anything new for myself and my hope is it’ll go on because to be frank I can hardly close my wardrobe and I have more than enough earrings and necklaces. Someone has made us think we need THINGS. So we work so hard and so many long hours and make ourselves tired and stressed….. but really….we all need to think. What do we all really need??

The answer is obvious.

Experiences, feelings, love, instinct, touch, song, words, family, seeing, breathing, here, now, outside, the clouds.

Lots of love this Sunday xx

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Religion

A word that often conjures up controversy.

Up to about eleven years old, religion to me meant going to Sunday school, colouring in some pictures of Jesus, being quiet, having to dress ‘posh’, singing songs I didn’t know but MOST important we used to get some Opal Fruits.   Green ones were my favourite.  They still are.  To anyone under 30, that’s a Starburst to you.

Very quickly despite being made to feel guilty about anything that appeared to be outside of the rules of the Bible (in particular drinking at whiskey at 15, rolling up your a-line Marks & Spencers navy school skirt and/or smoking through a polo) – I made my own mind up that I’d never seen this God person or Jesus and that the stories of fish and bread and walking on water all seemed rather unrealistic, plus religion had done me no favours at all so I decided to leave religion right there.  To be honest I don’t think I ever believed.  I just believed for Green Opal fruits.

At my friends dads funeral last week, I finally got some understanding of what religion means to people.  In this chapel of beautiful glass stained windows and wooden carvings, the congregation of those paying their respects were in fine voice singing to the hymns.  I find some religious funerals difficult, if you’ve been touched by sadness and cruelty in life it is hard to believe that someone out there is supposed to protect you.  I don’t believe in God.  I never will. However fundamentally in this funeral where people came together, where people smiled at each other and held compassion for each other.  Where a large group of people for that small amount of time chatted to each other, supported each other, hugged and empathised.  Where colour, gender, sexuality – where any differences seem to disappear and in place a large huddle of people gathered to just be there for each other.  I thought to myself.  That is religion.  Religion is a collection of rules and morals that fundamentally should mean we are a huddle.  A huddle of acceptance.  A huddle of live and let live.

Unfortunately as we see from the raging wars, from the homophobia, from the racism and hate, many humans have chosen to interpret religion on the whole as a weapon to be used against each other.  One where people can feel superior, one where people often think they can set rules that you should live by.  One then that can only fail.  

As happens so often when I’ve thought to myself, I think I’ll write about ‘this’ this week something else will come along and cement the reason why I have to write ‘this’.  As I walked my dogs on Tuesday afternoon on the cold but sunny banks of the canal, two hilarious poodles, tanned and white, ran up to my dogs and one stole the ball from mine.  No matter what the owner of tanned poodle did, tanned poodle was not for giving up the ball.  Don’t worry I said, I’ve got a spare.  We got chatting.  For whatever reason over the next ten minutes we ended up chatting about loss (her husband, my daughter), difficulties, strength, new beginnings and religion!  We both agreed that we were not religious but interestingly she said, do you know what …….this is religion, this is spirituality, this is what religion is.  A meeting of two people who are strangers yet who care, who give time and who leave each other that little bit more fulfilled with life.

Poodle owner gave me a hug as she got into her car.  Take care cariad, she said.

Religion – believer or non, the one sentence that I do try to live by is to treat others are you would like to be treated, can’t go far wrong with that one!!

Happy Sunday x

 

atheist

The life sandwich

Goodbyes. A happy thing, a sad thing, a difficult thing. A permanent thing but sometimes the beginning of a new thing.

I finish work this week after being with my colleagues for 6 years and 2 months! Over the days this week and next I have and will say goodbye to them all. There have been some tears of sadness, reminiscing, glasses (or bottles?) of wine, cards and gifts to exchange and promises to keep in touch. A difficult goodbye but with effort not a total goodbye and a goodbye for me that brings wih it a new beginning.

On Saturday we said goodbye to my oldest friends dad, a goodbye that is most definitely a sad occasion. A final goodbye. I read also of a friend who I met on a course some time ago…that she sadly lost her dad but also became a grandmother in the same week, as she said, a week of two halves indeed.

I’ve had discussions with friends who face their children leaving ‘their nest’ who cannot imagine life without their kids in the house but also have immense joy filling their heart at their childs new start in life. I have spoken to friends who have lost young friends this week seemingly way to soon and a woman who knows soon she will have to say goodbye to her mum. A friend is leaving her home for a new city. New starts and new goodbyes.

These endings and new beginnings have made me reflect on things, as I do!

What’s most important I think as I get older is this ‘one life thing’, this ‘life is not a rehearsal’ thing. Because it’s so very true and yet for some reason we forget, over and over and over. We worry about weight and money and who said what. We worry about our kids, the weather, our clothes, health, what we eat and drink. We bother about what people think of us and whether we’re good enough, where we are and where we want to be. When you drill down your worries, I bet most of them are made of imaginary scenarios and things that may or may not happen.

Endings make me feel grateful for the people I have around me and make me feel more enthusiastic and passionate about making the most of those people around me. Beginnings make me feel excited and nervous at the same time about what I’ll face tomorrow, next week, next year.

Life. It’s a beginning and an end. All we have to do is to fill that middle bit. Create our own filling for the ‘life sandwich’. One we can feel proud of, one that has few regrets, one of love and laughs, one of being there, one of support, one of friendship, and definitely one where we remember we’re human and we make mistakes so we definitely have to fill that middle bit in with forgiveness too. It might sound cliché but it is only us that can sort that creates the life sandwich filling , it’s only us that can put the music on and dance in the kitchen or laugh at your own jokes until your belly hurts.

I had a pre-mothers day wobble last week as I looked through a photo album made for me after I lost Tes. My heart felt broke again for a while as I looked at her. When I calmed after speaking to a good friend I was able to look at her life in those pictures and feel so happy for… how she filled her part of the life sandwich. Her passion, honesty, diligence and humour all meant she packed in so much to that ‘middle bit’. For that I feel inspired by her. I found an email from Tes to a magazine in London. She was 14. Can I please come to London and work at your magazine in the Summer to get some work experience, she wrote. This grabbing at life has left a legacy within me to do the same. I love that she has done that.

So that sandwich filling, that middle bit between the beginning and end, fill it to the brim with your favourite ingredients and add a big dollop of mayonnaise too!

Lots of love this Sunday x

Doing. Nothing.

My car was being serviced on Thursday so I took advantage of this enforced time off to walking in the cold crisp sunshine to the nearby shopping centre and treating myself to a coffee and cake. John Lewis style.

Two women sat quite far away but one spoke in that somewhat loud annoying voice that meant you could not avoid but hear her side of the conversation. She was worried about her son. His education. What he was going to do? The concern went on for quite a few loud minutes. The other woman was older, maybe her mum. She didn’t interrupt. Softly but with confidence when a gap appeared she responded. Just leave him to it. Let him find his own way.

The noisier woman felt just like me. Worried. Probably, like most parents, I’ve spent at least 80% of my waking life worrying about my kids.

This week I’ve reached the most difficult stage of parenting.

It’s the they’re almost an adult stage..it’s when you finally realise you have to let go.. it’s the do nothing stage.

Of course the innate and instinctive parenting side is still there. The I love you no matter what. The I’ll be here whenever you want me.

But now. I have to do nothing.

It’s more scary than the day you were born and I had no clue how to dress you. More frightening than the first time i cut your fingernails. More difficult than your first day at school. Worse than going back to work. Harder than your last day at primary. Even harder than the first time you went out to play by yourself. More worrying and difficult than letting you go to your first grown up party.

I’m a fixer. I find solutions. I. Don’t. Do. Nothing.

Now though …despite my exhausting efforts of advice and help and attempts to persuade and provide options and influence and guide. I’ve realised that now this is what I have to do.

I have to parent and of course I am here. In fact I’m waiting here for when I’m needed next.

I have to watch and wait and hope. I have to let mistakes happen and decisions made that I might not agree with. I have to stop myself giving unwanted advice about what I think is best. I have to step back and stop subtly persuading. I have to stop taking all responsibility and I have to trust.

I never knew that this would be the hardest part of parenting.

With it I’ve learnt that perhaps this theory should be applied to other areas of life too. We can’t fix everyone. Despite spending a lifetime thinking we can.

Kids and adults eventually have to work out things for themselves and though we instinctively want to make it ok for everyone. We can’t.

Parenting.

The hardest and most loveliest job in the world.

The bravest thing maybe is to let go and to trust and to believe in someone. That they can do it, without you.

Today it’s mother’s day. I only realised this after writing my blog about parenting. To those who are or who have had or want to be or don’t. And to the rest of you. Happy Sunday xx

If only …

One of the GPs in work has told me a few times about a consultant he worked with and quotes to me one of his favourite sayings.

He often quotes this to me when I say things like… I wish that…. if only…… had I known……

The consultant he quotes said something like. Medicine will be so much easier when the retroscope has been invented.

The retrospective scope.

It hasn’t been invented yet.

However we continue to torment ourselves with… if only I had done it that way… if only I had said this.. .. and if only I’d known that….

If we had the retroscope we wouldn’t make mistakes. We wouldn’t get things wrong. We wouldn’t need second chances.

We wouldn’t be human.

We have what we’ve got. Right now.

We can’t look back. We can’t change the past. It’s so important. So. So important to remember in times of difficulty and doubt and angst and worry… there is just now. And looking back and regretting is part of our human nature but we do not have a retroscope. Some things are out of our control. We can only have some hold and some direction on what comes next.

When we say what if or I should have.. .. remember we could not know the answer to what if or what you should’ve done because you did not know what was going to be.

A retroscope is a tool that will never exist. We have conscience. We can learn from experience. We can choose and make decisions. We will get things wrong and we will get much right.

What ifs and I wish I had…. phrases that can make us miserable and regretful.

What did we do right? How we cared. How we tried our best. How we helped you smile. How we listened. How we tried to make you happy. How we had patience. How we loved you.

What we have is right now. With the snow around our feet and the path ahead knowing that’ll change too but not exactly how.

Love and peace this Sunday.

Xxx

What happened?

Some weeks I think about my blog and muse that nothing really happened this week for me to write about. Nothing of interest.

I refuse to force a blog. The blog has to come from something that’s happened or something I’ve witnessed through the week that makes me want to write about it.

So far. Nothing seems to jump out so I sit here and think what’s happened this week? Nothing?

A few years ago when I started my blog sometimes I’d simply write about what made me smile that week. So a throw back and an exercise that I think is more than worthwhile now and again. A look back at what made a difference to this week.

Hopefully it might encourage you to do the same.

For me.

A new walk across the bracken and under pine trees I’d never walked before with someone who makes you feel a better person just by being there

Painting my door and mirror in my new lounge in my new home and not rushing it like I normally do… using masking tape and everything!

Getting to mum’s on my day off who made me chips and egg .. not just any chips but chips cooked Nannas style. Divine.

A meet up with an old friend where lots of wrongs were put right and good feelings were restored

A second tap dancing lesson where I GOT the turn!!!!

Being there at the worst possible moment when someone gets the call that their dad has lost his battle and you can at least offer one of your best hugs and a shoulder x

Playing the piano for the first time in over a year because now I have room for the piano!

A birthday lunch with your ex husband with an invite from his wife and and their son and our son and it’s all just lovely (particularly the quorn sausage breakfast bap!)

Cooking from scratch, lighting some candles and enjoying a few hours away from anything else

Seeing. The emerald reflection of the trees and the greenery at the bottom of the canal swaying in the sunlight which forces you to take a picture.

Some things are worth stopping for.

Sometimes we can think our life and our weeks and days can be quite ordinary but when you break them down they can be simply…..extraordinary.

Happy Sunday to you all

Xx

Tap. Heel. Toe.

Three words. One new experience. I dipped my ‘toe’ into tap dancing this week. I saw the beginners class advertised a few weeks ago and really wanted to have a go. I’m rather a frustrated actor/dancer/singer (little talent but lots of passion). So I thought why not. Give it a go. Join in.

Trying something new is hard though isn’t it? Walking into a room of people you don’t know to do something you’ve never done before is quite a challenge. Will I look silly? Will the others be friendly? Will they all be better than me? Soon enough we can easily talk ourselves out of new experiences and settle for what we know instead.

I’m fairly confident but it was still a little daunting. I roped a friend along and as they handed out the tap shoes and started talking about a future show we would be putting on I’m sure I saw my friend tapping quite quickly sideways towards the exit. But she stayed (thank you!).

What I loved about the tap dancing class surprised me. I thought it’d be the movement and the music and the sense of keeping fit. But what I really loved was learning something new. Meeting new people. Watching people smile. As we get older we don’t learn new things very often and that’s when our lives can feel a little bit ‘routine’. Our minds too need to keep learning. There’s proven research out there telling us how important it is to keep our minds healthy, we need to use it and challenge it.

Tap dancing as it turns out even at the basic level is quite a challenge. Tap, heel, stamp, shuffle, spin…. steps to the right then left, forward 4 and back 8. The next day I woke up and could feel the excercise in my legs a little and as I sat at my desk later that day I involuntarily caught myself doing a back shuffle tap with my right foot!!

It’s good to push ourselves and try something new whatever our age. With Spring around the corner what perfect time to try something new. New people. New experiences. New smiles. New beginnings!

Happy Sunday everyone xxx