PC 199 The Way We Are?

On my kitchen island I have a piggy money box ……

….. into which I drop the odd one pound coin. The habit of desultorily collecting spare coins started back at university when I wanted to stop smoking. In those days a packet of cigarettes was £0.50, so I bought a Snoopy money box and dropped a 50 pence piece into it every day. It was a few decades ago but that fund paid for a week’s holiday in Spain. (Note 1& 2)

The money box came to mind the other evening when Bill came to supper. Do you have an Anxiety Box? Somewhere you can drop those anxious thoughts about this and that ….. and leave them to fester, as opposed to not putting them there and seeing them in the cold light of day and seeing them for what they are …… often things completely outside of your control ….. and just let them go ….. let the wind take them? 

He sat opposite me, replete after a bowl of lovely fresh pasta and some yummy pudding. Relaxed and at ease with himself, he started talking about the next few months and then mused about the next few years. This was unusual for a bloke, talking about his feelings and thoughts, exploring the inner recesses of himself. In the climate of the Covid 19 pandemic, making any definite plans is fraught, for we don’t know, if we ever did, what tomorrow is going to bring.

For some, this uncertainty is easy to accept, for most of us it’s irritating to say the least, as exploring the future from the benefits of your armchair is what we do. For armchair read on top of a cliff, possibly windswept and bracing but with an horizon with which to stretch your thoughts; on a yacht using nature’s forces to go somewhere or just enjoy the experience; on a beach with the ‘lonely sea and the sky’; at the top of the spire of some cathedral; the theme is somewhere where you can see …. “an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight” (note 3) …… and not snuggled under a duvet. And now those ideas and dreams are tempered with the uncertainty of when, if ever, life will return to some semblance of what we had previously considered normal! Some seem to believe life is on hold; naturally we are all a little anxious.

Smugly, I am OK thanks! I have reached a point in my existence where I am extremely happy in my own skin, think I know what I like, what I love and what I don’t like and what I don’t love – oysters for example! Some of you will, of course, be right at the beginning of adult life (I have to assume no teenagers read my scribbles?), as some of the children of chums are, reaching university and all that that rite of passage entails, for some onto their second or third careers, for some battling with health issues, for some fighting with relationship trauma. It’s happened before and it will happen in the future; don’t think you are the only one! For example, back in 1978 the mortgage interest rate was over 16%  and that sure gave one sleepless nights!

“So” he muttered “should I stop work and if I did what would I do? Would I continue to live in my current house now my children have left? What should I do? Learn to play bridge?”

“Oh! Come on Bill! That’s such a cliché!”

With a climate of anxiousness, ‘mental health’ issues have come under the microscope in 2020 and about time too. (See PC 136) But I am afraid all we hear are the negatives and not the positives. I wrote “On the day of my recent birthday the quotation in the yoga studio was very serendipitous: “Happiness involves taking part in the game of life, not standing on the edge of things and frowning.” Mental Health was a minority issue that has moved mainstream; failure to address it properly will have major consequences for the nation.”

If you read PC 195 ‘Snippets …..’ you will have read of the death of Ken Robinson. Maybe if you hadn’t done so before, you went onto You Tube and watched his TED talk about finding your element, that issue, that topic, that sport, that experience that engaged all of your emotions. I get that, for many, being in love with your work is not always possible. We get drawn into something that gives us an income and that pays for the art classes, the singing lessons that, whilst acknowledging you will never be Adele or Caruso, give us so much pleasure and we think that’s it, that that’s all there is. In fact just this last week someone admitted over supper that their job pays the bills, but what they really wanted to do was sing, preferably in the ‘chanson’ style as that suited their voice ……. and that was a real passion.

Bill again: “It’s too difficult and it’s alright for you, you …….” and the defensive self-justification comes rolling in from left field.

“But I’m OK! I thought it’s you who are coming up with all these situations that for no reason make you anxious. Does it make you feel comfortable to pop these anxious thoughts into your box and leave them there to look at in the small hours, when the churning starts? Please, just get them out and let them fly away.”

Richard 9th October 2020

Note 1 I stopped smoking then and at various other times during my life, always tempted back through smoking little cigarillos. My last cigarette was on 14th March 1994 – at 1230 if you are that interested?

Note 2 Additionally I have, like most people I guess, an old coffee tin into which I drop my monetary shrapnel (1, 2 and 5 pence coins) when I come back from a shopping trip. At Christmas it’s given to charity – ie my daughter!!

Note 3 Father Bede Jarrett (1881-1934) was an English Dominican friar

One thought on “PC 199 The Way We Are?

  1. What a fantastic piece of writing!!! It made me thank about finding a Guilty Box to myself!!!

    I love these postcards of yours. Please keep posting them, man!!

    All the best



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