Some new acquaintances, a Ukrainian and her English partner, came to tea last month. I know I am sometimes insensitive but I just can’t help myself, wanting to understand how individuals came to be how they are, where they are today! What steps have led them to be sitting in our living room having tea and lemon drizzle cake with us? Then I had this image of stepping stones across a shallow stream, some stones small, others more like a boulder, some within an easy stride, others requiring a jump. You remember doing this, getting your balance, thinking how you are going to lift off through your feet, deciding which stone of two to step to, grateful obtaining your balance when you arrive; maybe stepping straight off onto another, maybe recovering your breath and pausing, assimilating, assessing?
If you look back over your life so far, you can see your experiences as these stones, these places you have moved through, sometimes changing behaviour to do so but more likely ‘more of the same’. Do you want to look under them to see what lurks in the darkness, or are you happy to see them for what they are, simple steps on your path through life? Most stones in a field have slugs lying under them and it’s damp and smelly; those across a stream are washed by cool water but contain a micro-kingdom of minute creatures and plant life. Revisiting one’s experiences can be cathartic and insightful or it can be painful and emotional. Experiences have happened and cannot be reworked or relived; they just are.
My advice is always to see them for what they are; don’t attach any unwarranted emotions to them and step forward to the next stone! Coincidently, my local Ekah yoga studio started their May newsletter with this quote from Abraham Maslow (he of the Hierarchy of Needs): “In any given moment we have two options, to step forward into growth or step back into safety.” I could add a third, ‘or to remain paralysed by indecision, fear and doubt’!!
Recently there has been some news coverage of how people look as they age and more importantly how they behave. We have always imagined that life expectancy would go on increasing as healthier lifestyles and better healthcare contributed to longer life; you may remember that in the USA at the beginning of 1900 the average age for a man was 46! Figures for life expectancy are very dependent on where you live. In the UK, in the most deprived areas where sadly endemic poverty, substance abuse and abysmal levels of expectation still exist, its 73.5 for men compared with 83.2 in the least deprived; for women its 78.3 compared with 86.3. Ten years of living lost just because you were born in the wrong place? In the words of the prophet: “Something must be done!”
Interestingly, as the end of one’s life becomes more of a fuzzy reality than something below the horizon, we stop investing in the future – for the future is here! The importance is to distinguish between being project-focused, ie getting stuff done and investing in the future and process-focused ie doing stuff and living in the present.
Started in 2014, there are now five volumes of my scribbles!
And still with the life theme …..it’s getting better as far as ‘Living with Covid’ (Note 1) is concerned but there was a period just before Easter here in the UK when everything seemed to go tits up! Flights were cancelled, ferries didn’t sail, the M20 motorway to Dover became a lorry park and queues formed everywhere; ‘staff shortages’ became a defensive cry. One of the reasons may have been that the government increased the number of identifiable Covid symptoms from 9 to 11. Now the working population seem to think: “OMG! I have a sniffle/ache/memory lapse/itch/hot flush/brain fog/cognitive difficulties/red big toe. Maybe I have Covid?” in the manner of someone in a Bingo Hall shouting ‘Bingo’ – and so not turn up for work, for instance as security in an airport.
But they actually feel fine so when Lucy says let’s go on a four day break to Budapest and Alan says yes, let’s and they get to Luton Airport for their Easyjet flight, to find the queues are horrendous and why didn’t they allow enough time and when the local newspaper’s reporter shoves a microphone in their face to ask for their reaction, Alan says there aren’t enough staff, that the queues are horrendous and the country’s going to the dogs. Irony alive!
Stepping through life is often recorded in celebrating birthdays and Celina’s is coming up. She needed a new Kindle; her much-loved one is tired and we knew that the sharpness of the display had improved immeasurably. Amazon advertise a ‘Trade-in’ offer for an old Kindle. Send it back and they give you a £15 voucher and 20% off a new one. But if you are an avid reader you don’t want to be without one, for even a day. I ordered a new one, it arrived and we deregistered the old one. The Trade-In instructions are easy to follow and it’s gone; the offer of £15 plus 20% off a new one is now valid. I manage to find a real human to talk to in Amazon Customer Services and explained to John I had just bought a new one, wouldn’t be buying another new one for a few years and could he give me the 20% refund. This question was above his pay grade and I was put on hold; 10 minutes later a refund was agreed. You just have to ask!
When I started reading the last paragraph of Rose Wild’s Feedback in a Saturday Times a fortnight ago, my imagination went into overdrive: “While I was writing this a cow came crashing down the chimney bringing with it 100 years’ worth of soot and dust.” Once the absurdity of this picture dawned, I reread it. For ‘cow’ read ‘crow’!
Don’t be paralysed by the unknown; have faith that the step you take will be OK. And if it isn’t, that’s OK too, as you can learn from what transpired.
Richard 6th May 2022
Note 1 Had my Spring Booster Covid vaccine last week so all up to date!