Island Blog – The Day Before and Hoodwinker Boots

Yesterday I was in the darkling woods, all day long. I could not lift into the light, got stuck among the trees, heard no birdsong, saw no sky. I haven’t had one of these days for a long while and it settled uncomfortably about me like a sodden jumper, cold and shivery. I sat with myself and we had a little chat about it. My mouth was overflowing with questions. Am I sick, going doolally? Am I selfish, thinking only of my own angst this day? Should I do something for someone else and would that guide me out of these tall dark sopping woods? Answer came there none. She just sat there, across the table from me, smiling slightly, her lips curved up at the edges, not smug, but knowing.

I get it, I said, my mouth now empty of whys and whats. It just is as it is. As I pondered my soggy state of mind, I realised something. She sees me doing this realising thingy and her lips curve even further up like she’s got an upside down rainbow on her face. He was my courage. That’s what unnerves me this darkling day. I remember him saying to me a thousand years ago that he was always surprised at my fear of pretty much everything. In my world, so he said, there were lions behind every bush and snakes crossing all my paths. There was fire outside all grates and thunder meant lightning and lightning would strike me down or strike someone I loved, like my horse. He was right. I knew it then despite my spirited rebuttal and subsequent flounce from the courtroom.

Over long time, like most of my adult life, I pinched his courage. He was afraid of nothing, if you discount my mother who terrified the pyjamas off him with her slick sharp tongue. I made a decent enough shape of it throughout the years, still terrified of all things but braver, bolder, more able to push through the fear in my hoodwinker boots. Even when he was fixed in a wheelchair, compromised almost completely, he was still my rock, he was there, I could see him and we could smile together, two upside down rainbows sharing a moment of reassurance and encouragement. Now he isn’t here anymore and although I would not wish him back, not as he was, not even as he was before the more recent ‘was’, I can still feel that catch in my breath as I stand before the enormity of living alone. Most of me loves the view, the space and the freedom. I don’t have to explain, justify or qualify my actions, my decisions anymore. I am not the first responder for requests, calls for help, for errands; I don’t have to clean toilets every hour or so; my washing machine is bored; I can sing along to Verdi’s Requiem in any key I like. I am free. And without purpose. And that is the truth of it. When a man has been the sole purpose for 49 years, a woman can be forgiven for wondering who the hell she is when he pops his clogs.

It is a good realisation. I look across at myself and say so and she agrees. Well done, she says. You got there. From such a new understanding grows a path, like a tree from a seed, only it won’t go straight up as a tree ought to, heading for the sky and poking the eyes out of the next door tree with busy branches, greedy for light. No. This path is like the yellow brick road and it’s right there ahead of you. Can you see it? Follow it and you will find new purpose, one you have never thought of before.

I can see it, the path, my path. Today I wake, still alone, but without the dark of yesterday dripping misery all about me and I am thankful. Now all that I have to do is to locate the whereabouts of my hoodwinker boots, Dorothy, The Tin Man and the Lion and then to start walking.

A Point in Time

Island Blog 38 - Three Amigos

 

Last night I watched something on one of those TV channels that loves adverts – or, rather, the revenue they bring in.  I hate them.  Not only do I not want a deep pile shag wool carpet with drip-resistant fibres and enough depth for the dog to get mislaid in overnight, or a 6-seater sofa in ivory tweed for the six members of the family who can’t wait to sit very close together and in a dead straight line of an evening, but it’s the interruption that bugs me most.  There I am, trying to work out who committed the crime, or wallowing in the poignancy of a tragic drama, allowing myself to float away on a cloud of wonderful acting and exquisite prose, when my thoughts are interrupted mid-reverie by squeals of over-excitement about some new and luminous cereal that the whole family will adore including the dog – especially the dog, after a confusing night in the shag pile.

It got me thinking about what really matters in life, and not one of them can be purchased with a credit card.  Time, for example. Time for looking.  Time for loving.  Time to give away, to share.

Although time is the one thing that all of us crave and all of us lack to some degree, it is the last thing we seem to treasure. We say we are running out of it.  We say we haven’t any to spare, and yet, time is constant, dependable, a never-ending supply day after day, year after year, and we all have the same amount to spend, regardless of our situation.

I think we need reminding sometimes, of the important and lasting valuables of life, ones no online site or department store will ever sell.  In particular, a reminder about our family members need for our time, because from time freely given comes involvement, sharing, comradeship, bridge-building and, above all, the ability to see what makes someone happy, what makes someone sad.  It trounces loneliness.  It requires no particular skills, no clever techniques.  It is just sitting with another or walking alongside them and asking gentle questions, talking together about things you can’t buy, and sharing, listening and smiling.  It is about being there and being there again and again, stepping into their world, be they 5, 15, 50, or 150. It’s about saying no to ourself and our own busy schedule and throwing it into the air, asking the question ‘What is important here?’ and finding to our own surprise, that it isn’t what we thought it was.  Lunch can wait, the TV news can be missed today.  Someone needs us, and not tomorrow at ten, but right this minute.

We all want time with the ones we love and if it means we don’t get an expensive gift, or a new carpet/sofa/gadget, we honestly, honestly won’t mind.  In fact, we will find we didn’t really want them at all.  What we wanted is what we have; a loved one who wants to be at our side; one who cares deeply enough to turn from their own world and to step into ours; who feels our joy and our sadness; who never lets us down. Relationships can be saved this way.  All of them.