Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

I had too much to dream last night…

August 4, 2013

Last night I had a dream that presented a pinsharp, disturbing reality that I lived in until I awoke. And it has left me with a mixed feeling of distress and serenity which will probably last a while. I hope it does.

Electric Prunes EP cover

The Electric Prunes, “I had too much to dream last night”

In short I dreamt that I was on my deathbed, soon to die (from illness, not trauma) and struggling to breathe. There’s the distressing part.

And while living these last moments, I dreamt about a conversation I had with someone, I know not who, about how it felt to be dying.  This was my reply, to my own surprise…

“Oh it’s okay, there are no regrets” I said, “Everything I’ve done has made me who I am and has led me here to this very point at this very time and it’s all okay. Really. Everyone has their time and this is mine. It’s alright.”

And as I sit here now in the garden with an early morning cup of tea, I am very surprised by this response and it is this that has induced a sense of calmness in me. This feeling of acceptance about my own mortality is new, something I’ve never experienced before. Prior to this I’ve considered death largely with fear and loathing and I’ve imagined the horror of it.

garden wide_4724

Of course as I wait for the number 50 birthday bus to pull up outside our house next year, my own mortality is something I’ve become more aware of lately. I am definitely no longer a member of the invincible and eternal youth club and actually I’m very glad about that.

But until this dream I have viewed my own death largely with dread and its bony hand has also made me feel guilty; guilty that I should be doing so much MORE with my life, be a BETTER person while I’m here, be MORE GRATEFUL for all that I have and that I should be STRONGER than I am.

But this dream has given me a new sense of calmness; about the life I lead now and what my future decisions might be.  It will be okay and I am okay. I don’t have to fight and I don’t need to spend quite so much time thinking about what I should and could do or plotting a new career trajectory, I can be me, accept being me and maybe even enjoy being me.

gdn blackberry_4716

Actually the dream has made me think that I need to enjoy being me as much as possible. And if that doesn’t involve saving the World and/or conquering my fear of scary roller coasters, well that’s fine. In an almost reckless way it makes me think ‘sod it girl, just do what you do well and what you enjoy to the very best of your abilities – have fun with it and stop trying to be someone else, someone better. Indulge almost, in yourself and accept that while others may think differently of you – that’s okay. Stop worrying about what they all think”.

And if my way of making a mark on the World will be just a little thing or two, then that’s fine too. Of course I have my two lovely children, but I didn’t have them in order to make a mark (at least I don’t think I did); they are their own people and they have their own lives to lead, their own marks to make.

Of course I don’t mean that I should live a selfish life – whatever I do I should be mindful of others and hopefully helpful too, sometimes if not always. I am part of a family, a community and a society and my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to contribute to those groups as well as stand up as an individual and of course from such contributions, satisfaction and fulfillment comes. But that dream last night and my feelings this morning and this post are about me.

A counsellor I know once told me that each of us is like a precious, cut stone with many facets, some of which shine in the light and some of which stay in the shadows. And she told me that we can turn our stone so that different facets glint in the light while others recede into shade. But while we can change the position and angle of our precious stone we cannot change it – we are who we are.

garden pink flower_4699

To take this analogy which I like a lot (but liking is not the same as living) a bit further, perhaps I could also try a touch of polishing; bring out the shine a bit more.

This new morning sense I have that maybe I can (and should) enjoy who I am, as I have that opportunity, is of course borne out of self-acceptance. And this for me is the holy grail – acceptance. Not happiness, but acceptance. Who came up with happiness as the ultimate goal anyway? Personally I think that ‘happiness’ as a state of being is a myth. Just like ‘work-life balance’; another nonsensical nirvana that very few, or even none of us is able to reach. They are over-used terms that leave us all feeling like we’re failing. Or is that just me?!

Pah! to happiness. Pah! to work-life balance. Acceptance is where it’s at!

Acceptance of who we are as individuals, what we are formed of – good points and bad, talents and shortcomings.

gdn yellow flowers_4731

It has also made me think that when I consider my possible future career or job, that maybe I don’t need to conquer the world with a small business idea, or push to find a fancy pants role in a shiny company. Maybe a decent-ish job to which I can contribute something genuinely useful will be quite sufficient thank you; a job that forms part of my life not all of it and leaves enough brain space to enjoy the rest of life, spend more time with the girls as they grow up and hone my practice of enjoying being me.

Of course finding that mythical job is another thing, and it’s also another blog post, but for here and now just indulge me in the thought that this exists as a concept and maybe it’s what I want. Perhaps I can stop chasing dreams that don’t exist.

I can’t say I embrace the idea of death, but this morning I feel a new sense of calm about it that I’ve never experienced before. Death is, inevitably, something that will come to all of us. And while we’ve become used to controlling (or believing we control) most things in our lives; this little number keeps us guessing, which bothers us no end. And of course for some people death comes all too soon and all too painfully. But maybe when we consider it we can at least hope to feel at ease with it, not afeared by it.

gdn hydrangea_4713

Having written all this (and on my third cup of tea in the garden) I suddenly remembered a Guardian article I read a couple of years ago about dying patients greatest regrets, as recorded by an Australian palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware. There is a book; “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” too, but for now, here are the headlines.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying…

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

It sent a shiver down my spine just now – I’m clearly on the right track. Now all I need to do is stay on it. Let’s all try… x

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A trip to the seaside…

March 19, 2013

I love a day out and today I went to Brighton to see my very aged cousin Marguerite. She is living in the Blind Veteran’s home known as St Dunstans, which cares for blind veterans young and old.

The building itself is an imposing 1920s creation, sat high on a hill to the East of Brighton, with beautiful views out to sea.

St Dunstan's wide shot

It was designed to reflect the layout of a plane so that its first patients, airforce veterans from World War One could find their way about; able to navigate their way around say from the ‘cockpit’ to the ‘fuselage’ or the ‘wings’. The home’s guiding principles were not just established in its layout; in all ways the home exists to give the residents inspiration, hope and the means to live a full life. Many residents are able to return to a full independent life outside, after a spell living here. It is far more than a care home.

Of course my cousin Marguerite aged 92, is an exception to the general rule; most of the residents here are much younger, wounded in active service in Afghanistan or Iraq. I haven’t met any of the younger residents as Marguerite is pretty much confined to her home on the third floor now. The entertainment and amazing facilities downstairs like the swimming pool and art rooms, are beyond her enjoyment. Staff do take her down sometimes but it’s usually too much for her – too noisy, and, although old she is still feisty and therefore apt to tell people to shut up if she deems it necessary. I might say that she never told anyone to shut up within my earshot when she was younger, she was always extremely polite. A privilege of  old age, to say what you’ve always been thinking.

Here she is when I visited today…

Marguerite waving

Marguerite waves for the camera

As soon as I asked if I could take her picture she removed her spectacles and waved. Of course it’s sad to see her so frail when once, not so long ago she was so full of life and vitality. Here she is in her 20s…

Marguerite in her 20s

She’s had a pretty amazing life – lived in Australia, travelled back by ship with her young son Michael and after active service as a WREN, became a professional portrait photographer. So while decline is inevitable at her age I suppose, it’s also important to remember how much enjoyment she’s had. She’s had her share of pain too, but over all I think she’s lived a full and happy life; grasping opportunities when they came her way and always interested in the people around her. Now, she is in very little pain, is cared for amazingly and has chocolate for breakfast.

But she is very frustrated at times. “What am I going to do about it?” she asked today. “About what?” I said. “This physical body of mine. Things going wrong”. “I think perhaps you’ll have to accept it Marguerite” I said, “bits of your body have given up long before you”. If she had her way she’d still be dancing.

I hope she carries on going for as long as she gets some pleasure from life and for as long as she’s able to assert her wishes. And I hope her memories are mostly happy ones.

To match the mixed emotions of the day, our glorious British weather lurched from one extreme to another. As I left St Dunstans there were beautiful blue skies and sunshine…

Blue skies view from St Dunstans

But fast forward awhile, probably half an hour or so to the view from my homeward-bound train…

Rainy train window

Rain, rain, go away

Sigh.


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