Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Being thankful and simple pleasures.

Major life events can be called life-changing in a dramatic way, but undramatic, day-to-day choices can end up being life-changing too.  (I see that the film, 'Sliding Doors' is on TV this evening. A case in point.) In my life, answering the college telephone, overhearing a customer in a local shop and changing a collection point for a charity, all changed my life immeasurably. 

This short blog is about a dramatic, life-changing life event. Two years ago today, my husband unusually complained of a stomach-ache. Twenty-fours later he was undergoing life-saving and life-changing surgery. Thank-you NHS and Mr Gatt at Scarborough hospital.

I reminded him of the anniversary today and he said that he hadn’t realised what day it was and didn’t really want to think about it, because of negative memories. That's a useful way of managing upsetting memories, "If you pick it, it won't get better." But I reminded him that it was also the anniversary of survival and how we made some positive changes to daily living.

It’s been a beautiful, autumn day today. We took the opportunity to go for a local walk, exploring a part of town that we hadn’t visited before. Before the illness, if a lovely day was in the week, we would have stayed in, working. Then, probably complained at a soggy weekend that often followed. Today, we made hay while the sun shined.

It may sound trite and perhaps schmaltzy, but we find some pleasure in every day and are thankful. I've always had Pollyanna Syndrome and know it can be trying for people sometimes, but I'm also realistic. Of course, there is plenty to complain about and to be concerned about, but there is always something to be thankful for too.  It doesn't seem to do any harm and we can also be more choosy about what we worry about and how much we worry. 

"I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened." Mark Twain

Nearly being deprived of small, simple pleasures has heightened our appreciation of them. I recall a client, who found counting three blessings before getting up in the morning, helped her manage the domestic chaos that awaited her outside the bedroom door. I know of people who chose to do something similar at the end of the day.

When I ran the practice, I often used this quote to help clients:

“…we live in the past or in the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special moment when our life will unfold itself in its full significance. And we do not notice that life is flowing like water through our fingers.”   

Father Alexander Elchaninov

Not living for the day, but in the day.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Do you see, but not observe?

This is the extended* Wellbeing Column from the York Press on August, 31st 2015.

My teenage grandsons have been staying with us, on their annual holiday.

We visited a local ‘hidden gem’ on bicycles. A wooded glen with a waterfall falling in a rocky cove. The boys loved exploring the area and on returning home asked if they could visit it again. We returned two days later. This time, the weather was even better and as we came through the trees, the North Sea appeared before us, an iridescent Mediterranean blue, matching the sky. A small yacht was moored in the cove and added to an idyllic scene. 

The boys went off to explore. Some families were picnicking and examining rock pools in the cove below the ledge, on which I remained. One father had gathered a few sticks of driftwood and was showing his children how to make a fire in a small circle of rocks. A fragrant, light pall of smoke drifted upwards to near where I was sitting on a boulder, reading the Sunday papers. The only sounds were of laughter and waves gently lapping the shore. It was warm, sunny, peaceful and pretty near perfect.

A few people came up and down the paths and an older couple appeared with a dog. The man climbed down to the pebbly beach with the dog, to take photos of the waterfall. The woman stood on the ledge and turned to me, saying with faint disgust, “I’ve come all this way for this! There aren’t even any seats.” I suggested that the boulders made comfortable seating. 

The woman moved twenty feet away, across the waterfall, to sit on a rock in the shelter of the cliff. She managed to get a signal on her mobile phone and spoke loudly about her dissatisfaction with everything. After the phone call, she made a roll-up, which she smoked with vigour. The pleasant, light breeze meant that her face was enveloped in smoke. I make no judgement on the woman’s activities, only in being bemused about what happened next. 

The man returned with the dog and the woman walked back across the rocks to join them. As they passed me on leaving the cove, she turned to me again and said, “ those people with the fire have ruined it for everyone.”

The boys arrived back full of wonder at their exploration of the glen. They sported grubby knees and wet shoes. They had taken photos of what one of them called called, “ the prettiest place I have ever seen.” I suggested exploring a different path, which they did happily and provided further delights. I thought that their beloved electronic devices couldn’t provide such memories.

I returned to my Sunday papers. In one article, someone had written about Sherlock Holmes. They wrote that Sherlock was often saying to Dr Watson, “ You see, but you don’t observe.”

Perhaps the same could be said for some of the visitors to the cove that afternoon. 


* I know that I have touched on this subject before, but we have been given the gift of five senses of smell, sight, hearing, taste and touch and we don't use them as well as we could. They can be a great resource and are free. In fact we don't realise how precious they are, until they are not there anymore or less sensitive. People can miss so much by not using them at all or properly.

I also like to add two more necessary senses for a healthy life. A sense of humour and common sense.

Do we hear, but not listen? Eat, but not taste? Touch, but not feel.