Thursday, 17 September 2015

The importance of being important

At each stage of life we don’t always know what we want and that creates problems.

In youthful innocence, we often don’t know who we are or what we truly want. In childhood we are certain that we don’t like green food on our plates and throw a mighty fit if our parents try any form of encouragement that’s not a handsome bribe! This is the stage where we throw the baby (and the water) out of the bath and discover consequences.

 All of life is a journey of learning how to learn, think, discover and evaluate our options. It’s the rocky road of learning from our mistakes which often entails putting our hand into the fire to see whether our skin is inflammable…..its not! We are not fire proof but we still have to fight the fires of life that threaten and sometimes consume us daily – financial struggles, emotional upheavals, mental strains, physical injuries and a host of moral dilemmas.

Our teen years are a time of great challenge. This is the time when a brain becomes a mind and gives the body a nudge that  it houses a soul. Biology tells us we have a beating heart but it becomes more than just a human organ in our teens and young adulthood.  We acquire the faintest notion that we can either keep hold of it ( until we’re centered) or give it away to another ( lost )soul and be reckless. You will lose or give away your heart a few times during the “wonder” years but you won’t find it in the “lost property” office. In fact, your heart may be returned to you in a very poor state – fractured or even completely broken. Such is youthful abandon that we discharge of our precious cargo to another immature and deceitful heart that plays with it and may even damage it beyond repair.

This problem worsens when our mind and heart have parted company or are at odds with each other. We listen to our heart at the expense of our mind; both are false friends when hormones have a stranglehold on our mental capacities.

In our twenties, when the brain chemistry is firing on (nearly) all pistons we’re still figuring it out. A young man tinkers with his first car and decides to pursue motor mechanics as a trade when what he really wants to be is tearing up the Formula One race track at mind boggling speeds. A young girl studies dance which leads into bit parts in television and theatre but what she really wanted was to be was a drama queen and strut her stuff on stage.

Choose wisely in your twenties or you might be stuck in some uninspiring environment. Marriage could be one of them. A true marriage is one of hearts and minds not just living spaces! Embarking on a cosy twosome is like a curious adventure but what you learn in this hunting ground will either make or break you. Be wary and be warned!

Oprah shares an instructive tale of her twenties when she was a humble TV news anchor wondering if that was all that life had to offer.  When she consulted a fortune teller, it was predicted that what she truly wanted was to achieve stardom and light up the world……and that’s exactly what Oprah did next!

Playing it safe and hiding our light “under a bushel” is making out to the world that our ambitions and higher thoughts are of no value. We find ourselves in the grip of low self esteem and never dare to climb out of that pit until we’re older and less agile.

In our thirties there’s a pressure to “settle down” which invariably means getting onto the mortgage gravy train and remaining on it for at least the next twenty five years. By that time, we have a few mouths to feed and have completely lost a work/life balance; in fact, we live to work and become wage slaves to public and private companies. Our hopes remain alive and staying alive to run the rat race is our greatest wish but our dreams slip away. The dream of owning a farm, villa, allotment is overtaken by the fear of not having enough so we hitch our wagon to capitalism and ride the storms.

Again we do what’s important, what’s required of us but we make ourselves unimportant in the process. Have you ever known a CEO of blue chip company to be concerned about his own or employee’s health? There’s no health & safety policy that states that a human is not designed to be inactive and sitting down in front of a radioactive screen for up to 8 hours. Knowing and doing what’s important are life long challenges on the human journey.

Once we hit our 40’s, those who’ve put themselves last and made ridiculous sacrifices to NOT progress themselves by taking defensive and indecisive positons suffer greatly. The pain is mostly psychological and the fight/flight mode you’ve used as your default setting requires analysis. In middle age there’s realisation that we are too valuable to be exploited by family and bosses.We can practise saying “yes” to our dreams and “no” to the obstacles such as partners and friends. We disengage from the herd and find our own voice and path.

Finding our sense of importance is not be confused with vanity. Being conceited is an ugly trait though you might think you look good in your Christian Louboutin’s. Being well read is more important than being well dressed though society may judge the book by the cover. The more discerning will certainly seek out the author and make relevant judgements.

We want to be important to others but it shouldn’t come at an astronomical cost to yourself. Don’t give yourself away lightly; make sure he or she’s worth it……….and they may not be!

Life is an important journey and it is eternal too. So develop, believe, nurture, love and educate yourself……its important to be important and much more.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Loneliness and the long distance writer.....

Image result for writing outdoors

Writing is a solitary pursuit, that’s a given. There’s usually no one around when you face that blank piece of paper or blank screen. I’m a writer that requires silence – pin drop if possible. Some writers have acquired the zen like habit of being able to write around a chaotic family life, a commitment filled professional life and a host of other obligations.

Writing is not for wimps. It’s one of the toughest disciplines in the art of soul expression. Writers, especially the prolific kind, bare their souls and wrestle with their inner demons to birth their literary offspring.

True writers, in my humble opinion, are born not created. It’s a gift that’s placed into their hearts long before the gestation period on the earthly plain. The flair for prose and poetry is an ethereal quality that challenges even those who are born with it. Writers can’t quite believe or accept their skill-set to place words that engage, alarm, mystify and de-mystify, cajole, frighten, relax, hearten weep and question. Words are ultimately powerful, they can build bridges and start wars.

A writer has a responsibility just as a sprinter has when he faces the open road. Everything hinges on mind and body coming together to deliver a high quality race and finish. They know that everything rests on their daily exertions to fill the pages and maintain endurance.

Non-writers, who believe that they entered this world without a gift are in awe of the published writer. They erroneously believe that plots/characters pour forth from the writer’s mind like the foamy waters of the Niagara. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Loneliness, frustration and plagued with constant doubts is the writer’s brief. Writers become anti-social as they lock themselves away behind closed doors and write/tap away into the small hours. They don’t answer their telephone and barely keep up with current affairs. If they did, it would severely detract from focusing their energy on their work-in-progress.

A work in progress demands attention to detail. Little things to writers mean a lot – a sneer, scowl, glance, glare, stare, laugh and grin. A writer feels every word and enters into this world he/she creates and then makes friends with their characters – not just the protagonist but the villain too. A story line is scattered with the dark and light scenes – the endless struggle between good and evil is played out until the climax is reached.

Good writers are usually insecure. Confidence comes with practice and even publication but it’s a difficult path that writers tread. Each page challenges the grey matter to spew a lava of unfettered thoughts to obliterate the whiteness on page and screen. To write and have someone read your efforts is like standing in a room of strangers – naked. To hear your words critiqued is like having a knife twisted into your heart. To hear them appreciated is – after the initial shock – like drinking in the nectar of the gods.

A writer, however, is rarely satisfied. A writer is only as good as his/her last book. A sequel beckons as soon as the manuscript is submitted and prepped by agents and publishers. Readers are voracious and want more and the voice in the writer’s heart and head are demanding.

A writer’s work is never done; it’s a life long pursuit. After months of writing and revising - tired but triumphant - a writer emerges from his cabin to appreciate the world anew. Word –worn but inspired to live on to write for another day. Everything is remarkable to a writer – a brushed blue sky, a lovelorn nightingale, torrents of rain, gnarled hands, a gurgling stream. Senses are constantly on alert to the ordinary and extra-ordinary quality of the world.

The only failure in writing is to stop. A good writer knows that this is an endless race. Loneliness is a necessity. It’s a friend that sits with you when inspiration and dedication join forces to hone a masterpiece.





Friday, 15 May 2015

My atomic family and other animals


Image result for family of rabbits

In the brave new (developing) world, we  experience the  post natal effects of delivering nuclear babies who are now on the verge of adulthood (also known as teenagers in the 21st century). The  progeny of the nuclear and non-nuclear families are beasts that are hard to tame. They are certainly not the shy wallflowers or awkward, gangly youths of yester year. No, these are confident, polished homo sapiens for whom age is just a number.

Currently, I share my “cage” with two cubs – aged 17 & 19. My eldest man-cub has reached the ripe old age of 26 so we are starting to have some adult conversations if not for the fact that he’s content with non-communication.   I recall the three bundles of joy that I carried home tenderly from the hospital. At that time, I was enamoured with their apple cheeked, dewy eyed stares as they surveyed their new world. At one time, during a severe bout of colic, I had the fanciful notion that my elder cub did not want to be in this amniotic-less dense world…….and sometimes I wonder about it still.

Nevertheless, I gave my best to motherhood and was depleted and deprived in the process. Of course, this is the maternal brief that women sign up for when they embark upon this sacrificial  journey. A mother gives and a child takes. A mother goes without so that children may go with……. all the trappings of a “happy childhood”. In today’s world, I’m reliably informed that the list goes beyond food, clothes and mere shelter. The in-your-face teen requires  fast food laced with oil, sugar and salt, clothes with designer labels and a home that’s modern - complete with a hot tub, private gym, roof garden, home cinema, dance studio,  sound proofed music room, a den to “chillax” in, garden with a barbeque,  swimming pool for regular pool parties and a host of Apple/Nintendo products.

Despite the enticing list above, the modern teenager is stressed and usually busy doing nothing.  It (and I make no distinction between male or female cubs) has decided that hormones are weapons of mass destruction and may be launched at regular intervals at their care givers – parents, teachers, siblings and whoever else is in the firing line. Whatever is zinging through their endocrine system makes them speak/cry in a high pitched tone (aka whining and whinging), dress as if they’ve just got out of bed (they have!) and generally act so nonchalant that a rocket is required to be placed up their derrieres to get them moving. Perhaps NASA can work on a space program that would send teens to the galaxy since they’ve had a ton of experience of being in space (lazing around in their beds/on the sofa)…….to the point of becoming a waste of space.

The cute, swaddled bundles have evolved into elongated avatars that lurch from room to room searching for food/xbox/nintendo like heat seeking missiles. They grunt unintelligible syllables that is “street talk” that desecrates the Queen’s English. Profanities are fashionable so vocal pollution is the new age vernacular.   “Whatever” is their mission statement and that’s the most civil word in their limited vocabulary. Teens also sprout bulbous pieces of plastic that they wear on their heads like a tribal headress. Headphones are big, small, tiny and essential. They have two purposes : one is for the humble pleasure of music listening, the other is to drown out the voices of their parents.

Their ears are attached to headphones and their eyes are fixed on a screen. The computer is king and you can hear banshee like screaming if the broadband signal drops out. Survival for a teen today doesn’t depend on food, water or loving parents. This new breed need “FiFA, Football Manager, Call of Duty, Grand Auto Theft, Instagram, Twitter, What’s App, Tumblr, Snapchat, Candy Crush,    ” – the virtual world is their whole world. Facebook is like visiting grandma’s home – its cosy filled with goodies (for the eye) that will tantalise the senses.

Vloggers are their messiahs. Teens (and others) “like” and “follow their “role models” (of which parents are no more). Parents, in the electronic age, are less important than “keeping up with the Kardashians!”

Teenagers are the new demi gods and goddesses;  a conglomerate with unlimited liability. A demi-god can force you to vacate your own home just so that he (and you) can get a bit of peace. A demi-god is the ultimate ruler of his world and has dominion over his bedroom (which you shall not enter though you own the house!) A demi-god has control of finances – his and his parents’. A demi-god has his own life…..far removed from what we know as a life. Being unwashed, unkempt, foul-mouthed, lazy, devouring every kind of junk food and using 10% of their grey matter is not my idea of acquiring a healthy spirit.

Family is an ever decreasing circle. At some point we’ll part ways and there’ll be silent spaces everywhere.  My teens have given me an idea that replacing a crowded nest with an empty one is an attractive prospect. They’ve forced me to re-evaluate and speculate……

Q: What would a life of my own look and feel like?

A: Pretty darn wonderful (at this point in time)!

Family will come and go but animals remain. In our case, it’s a little, white rabbit that will retain our eternal affection. What we can’t always share with each other, the deepest and finer feelings of love are showered on the bunny….and he knows the best and worst of us. Once the teens have morphed into proper adults,  finished university and are climbing the corporate ladder, Diety-dom will be a distant memory. A salaried position will make them snap out of their divinity double quick.

My family is dysfunctional, difficult, frustrating but growing.  Personal growth spurts are inevitably challenging in teens and the wider family. My own “growth” into super-woman has been no doubt testing to them  so pain – as a giver and receiver -  is the ageless familial exchange.  
I reproduce therefore I suffer and celebrate in equal measure.

Perhaps I’m too close to the mountain (of their talents) to appreciate the view. In the near future, the vista will change and when I stand back I’ll be able to understand the light / dark shades of character, wit and unique personalities. Until then….I’ll live  this upside down, tumultuous life, gather my frayed nerves and keep calm!