Squeeze your lemon

 

New Year greetings seem to be going the way of Christmas sales in that they get earlier and earlier each year. Social media is full of Happy New Year messages today even though the new year hasn’t arrived yet. I’m not sure whether it’s a case of ‘getting in first’ or just general over-exuberance for the celebrations. Or maybe some people think that they may not be capable of selecting the correct characters in the early hours of 2018. I’m prepared to give people the benefit of the doubt though and be happy that they want me to be happy.

 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate your sentiments but to be honest; this coming year, 2018, would have to throw something pretty unexpected and unpleasant at me to make it anything other than a happy one. I know I am probably tempting fate saying that but really I am truly optimistic about what lies ahead.

I’m going to a party tonight, the first New Year’s Eve party I have been to for some years and Gill tells me we are “staying to see the New Year in”. Something else I haven’t done for a while. The party is a home made affair arranged by the residents of the marina and it will be another chance to meet a few more fellow boaters and to reinforce the feeling that what we are doing, moving permanently onto the boat is the right thing for us. I can’t ever recall making such a significant, life changing move at the precise moment that we move from one calendar year to another and although the date shouldn’t make any difference logically, it does. It feels very much like a new beginning in every sense.

As I type, Gill is working her last shift in Lytham and later today we will go back to the boat and leave our old life behind. I’m looking forward so much to this new adventure. The chance to learn new skills maintaining and driving the boat, making new friends on the marina and further afield and learning to live a completely new way of life from anything that has gone before. It’s really exciting and it reinforces my belief that whilst we are all either alive or dead there are so many shades of living in between. We all owe it to ourselves to find the most fulfilling and rewarding life we can and not to settle for second best.

I reached into the fridge the other week and found half a lemon going soft and showing signs of mould. I tossed it into the bin (compost of course) but giving it a second thought I realised what a great metaphor for life it offered. I realised how sad it was that it had only half fulfilled it’s role. I can’t remember whether the used half contributed to a G and T or added zest to a lemon drizzle cake but I was sad that half of it had been wasted. Life’s a bit like that isn’t it? It’s so easy to let half of your life go unused, only to find it lying at the back of the proverbial fridge when you reach the end of your days.

I wish all of you the best of life in 2018 and urge you to go out and squeeze that lemon as hard as you possibly can.

Happy New Year.

Eva’s 100 miles for Mommy

Some things are very difficult to understand. I’m OK with basic chemistry, atoms and electrons but I start to lose it when it comes to black holes, quarks and as for Higgs boson, well I don’t like to think about it because it makes my head hurt. But all of these things pale in their complexity when compared to trying to understand happiness.

I’ve been pondering the whole subject of happy over the last couple of days prompted by an incredible event that I was lucky enough to be a small part of. It was an event that spurned huge amounts of happiness but also a fair amount of sadness too and it put them together in a blender and produced something that was very difficult to pin down and explain but I’m going to try anyway.

A whole lot of happiness

A whole lot of happiness

The event that I am referring to was a multi-day sponsored bike ride around the Fylde which in itself is nothing remarkable until you consider that the leader of the ride was just seven years old and the distance covered over the five days was a shade over one hundred miles! As is so often in these cases the background to this amazing achievement is a tragic one which is where all the sadness I referred to came from. Eva, our ride leader, lost her Mommy to cancer last year and she told her Dad that she wanted to do something really special in memory of her. Her Dad Gareth and his daughter are both keen cyclists so a bike ride of some kind was probably inevitable but nobody expected Eva to opt for such an ambitious challenge. After five days of riding the journey ended in a celebration at the local cricket club but it was a celebration tinged with pain and sadness for many. Eva seemed to take the whole thing in her stride and while many of the adult riders bemoaned their aching muscles and tender backsides at the end of the final day Eva celebrated with a game of football with her chums.

Pround Dad

Proud Dad

I met Gareth, Eva’s Dad, through our shared interests of cycling and writing and as I said goodbye to him yesterday he mentioned that he would like his next blog to be a happier one than some of those in the past and that is what got me really thinking about how we get happy and stay happy. Gareth lost his wife in the most awful circumstances to an extremely aggressive form of cancer and he appears to be doing a truly amazing job of bringing up his two small daughters, Eva and Isla, in what must, at times, feel like a whole sea of despair. You have to wonder what chance happiness has of surviving in such a situation but survive it surely does.

For me, happiness is something that comes in moments rather than continuously or permanently because it is something that requires a whole host of elements to be present at the same time. Contentment, security, friends, love, humour, comfort and many more components all have to be present to make us feel truly happy and when you take any one of them away the danger is that the happy bubble bursts. Take one away and replace it with grief and happiness is always going to struggle. Well that is what I thought until my experience over the last two days watching Eva’s ever smiling face as she pedalled furiously up the steepest of hills and never once complained. There was so much fun and laughter and pure joy during those rides it was as if somebody was building the most magnificent cathedral on what had been a derelict bomb site.

Happiness really is such a slippery thing to get to grips with. I sometimes think that it is something that we can share. Being with happy people is infectious like laughter or smiling so that presumes that only really happy people can share it out. Maybe we have to share it out to enjoy it. It’s all very well having a whole birthday cake to yourself but at some point it will make you sick if you don’t share it with others. So here is the real dilemma for me; Gareth and his lovely little girls have every reason to be a bit low on the happiness stakes and yet they seem to have been able to share enormous quantities of it and make dozens, if not hundreds of people very happy. Of course their terrible loss forces us look at ourselves and realise how fortunate we are to have the friends and loved ones that we do but it also gives us hope. It shows us that even the most desperate, desolate bomb site can one day become the foundation for a new and beautiful garden of flowers.

The inspirational Eva

The inspirational Eva

There has been a deluge of heart felt messages on social media today congratulating Gareth and Eva for what they have achieved. Most of them refer to the huge amount of money that has been raised, and the incredible achievement of a seven year old riding a hundred miles in five days. I will second all of those thoughts but I also want to add a great big thank you to Gareth and Eva for the sheer volume of happiness that they have managed to create in the world. That happiness will spread outwards just like ripples in a pond and those ripples will eventually bounce back to them. That’s when I hope Gareth will be able to write his happy blog and I for one will look forward to reading it.

You can read more about Eva’s ride on Facebook by clicking this link. Or, just go here to donate.

Painting behind the radiator

Every day when I use the shower I am reminded of how similar to me the tiler that installed it must have been. You see the first time that I used the shower it looked pristine with its immaculate white tiles and chrome fittings. However, after a few days I began to notice black marks on the tiles that wouldn’t wipe off and eventually I worked out what was going on. We use a rubber squeegee to dry off the walls after a shower and it turns out that the tiler hadn’t bothered to clean the excess grout off the tiles when he did the installation. The hard grout was getting blackened by the rubber squeegee and confronting it every morning made me aware of two things about myself. The first is that I am really bad at finishing jobs off properly and the second is that I’m really bad at getting round to doing things. (Like cleaning off the excess grout and with it the black marks). I’ve done it now, it’s all clean and white again and now I am left thinking, ‘why didn’t I do that weeks ago?’

I admire people that see a job through to the final detail but I’m afraid I’m not one of them. I know from experience that when I put away the paint and brushes promising myself that I will get them out again and touch up that bit behind the radiator, I never will. The bit behind the radiator will fade from my memory and from my view and it will never get done. Does that matter?

Life is too short. Or is it?

Life is too short. Isn’t it?

There was a light hearted feature on the radio the other day suggesting that messy people live more interesting lives than tidy ones. On first consideration I would agree that while the tidy people are dusting, vacuuming and sorting, the messy people are having fun and making memories. Nobody is going to remind us, just before they pass away, of the day they cleaned the whole house from top to bottom or removed the radiator from the wall so that they could paper and paint behind it. Are they? But maybe it isn’t as simple as that.

I am one of those people who won’t bother to take the radiator off the wall so the decorating will take me less time and in theory I will have more time to do more interesting stuff. The problem is that having created all this extra time it’s just too easy not to do anything interesting or worthwhile with it. I may as well have done the decorating properly and at least have the satisfying glow of a job well done. Then again, I could just stop beating myself up for not being neat and tidy and not being interesting either.

Surely the only thing that really matters when we get to the point of departure is whether or not we are able to look back and say we were happy. Whether we feel content and ready to throw in the towel or whether we desperately want to go back and have another go at it. It doesn’t really matter if we did nothing more than paint behind the radiators or if we cycled round the world in the end. All that matters is that we enjoyed it. I’m not sure where that leaves me. When I open the shed in the morning do I get the bike out or the paint brush?

image_pdfimage_print