If I’d known I was gonna live this long. I’d have taken better care of myself“, musician and lyricist Eubie Blake, was known to say at 100 years of age!
One of my health promotion clinic clients cited this at herself laughingly today, pleasantly surprised at the health check results I had explained for her. Of course the opposite of Blake’s irony might also be true. If we know we will die prematurely we might become a little lax and concern ourselves far less about lifestyle maintenance and health behaviours! Indeed, some individuals assume a lack of control over their outlook generally. It’s called fatalism, or what the social scientists call a lack of future orientation.
I recall the 1980’s pop star Debbie Harry singing “Die young, stay Pretty!” It was a nod to the untimely end of Marilyn Monroe and her own idolisation of this iconic woman. So whether it is the extreme recklessness of Harry’s sentiments or just an encroaching lack of motivation or ambiguity, health beliefs underlie our health status. We are all somewhere on this spectrum of living for today between an obsessive allegiance to topical advice, right through to numbing substance abuse or self-medication and wilful daredevilry!
Yesterday I met a lean and fit 40-something who amazed me with his eager curiosity, knowledge and self confessed obsession with the parameters of his very good health. He personally owned a pulse oximeter (which measures blood oxygen saturation, typically used in Intensive Care Units), a blood pressure monitor and a blood sugar measuring tool. He was considering buying a cholesterol monitor too!! He was evidently bashful about his fascination and could not be reassured about his excellent resulting risk profile.
Like this man, I have actually been much more prone to neglecting present pleasures and payoffs for the sake of the future rather than relegating the future for the sake of today. For me these sacrifices have been seen in my conscientiousness to hard work, readiness and practice; sometimes difficulty feeling I have “done enough” and even a very long overdue divorce. Vision is the essence of great sporting and competitive achievement, discovery and legacy. Yet poorly grounded in reality, it can be equally, quietly and as deceptively debilitating as its entirely opposite lack of responsibility.
The well known Swahili phrase used in the Disney Lion King song “Hakuna Matata” means “No worries”. What a great outlook to have, to be this carefree! And yet, As Simba was challenged to recognise by wise Rafiki , it is one that is rarely attached to long-lived
influence or impact !! It has nothing to do with purpose. I have noticed over the last year that everywhere I encounter people casually in shops, restaurants garages, there is a greeting left ringing in one’s ears rapidly replacing the meaningless “See you laterI”
This is increasingly “No problem!” or “No worries!”.
“Did I mention any problems?” I am tempted to reply!
Only a casual encounter can really claim to have no worries so I suppose the phrase is reasonable! No problem, means no attachment and no commitment is not friendship but chance.
So self investment whether toward health or education, personal or spiritual growth always and only come with vision, whether it be the vision of eternal youth and unblemished health, success in one’s career or strength and courage in the face of challenge. Without vision, the people perish” a Biblical proverb goes. May I ask, What vision is binding and protecting your “health and wellbeing”? What habits do you live by that release or degrade your prospects? They are likely to be tied inextricably with with the strength of clarity by which you see yourself finishing….and how!!
Live as if you know now what that will look like and you will live as if it were true, as if you had known all along!
This week has been very unusual for me. I have been enjoying the luxury of a decorator!
For the first time in my life I am paying for the privilege of having someone else strip, prepare, paint and paper the most challenging job overdue; my jaded hall and stairs! It has felt very indulgent!
Inevitably there has been dust, lots of it….I have been overcome with an urge to clear, remove re-order and de-clutter. Suddenly the prospect of moving a picture from one room to another opens up. At last I see that a battered set of drawers is really not worth keeping, that a bulky filing cabinet can be squeezed off the landing and open up the space completely! During this week, I have also been reading the book Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud which has opened my eyes to the fact that I am really not good at seeing endings and conclusions (prunings) as a part of normal, seasonal life. It’s why I hoard old cards, books, games I have lost pieces of and CD’s I never listen to any more! Never afraid of change or innovation (I love it) it has been quite a surprise to realise that I also obviously need to habitually let go of something if I expect to progress along new paths. But which things to let go of and which to hold on to? I can recommend the book for sound advice on making that distinction.
However, something else that a mentor of mine Kary Oberbrunner believes, has also been in my awareness. It’s along the lines of “doing it scared“, or “jump and build your wings on the way down“. We refuse to be paralysed by possibilities and analysis, we refuse to procrastinate until we think we know everything we need to know about something before we can possibly try! That’s when we find out what we need to know! When we start to act upon an idea, a motive or a passion even when we don’t know How, God has a habit of putting things in our way that resource and equip us to find out just that! Wisdom comes through experience. It’s only when we start to dislodge and re-order that we remember even half of what we know and have and could do with it! I am constantly amazed at how often when I am looking for one mislaid item, I find something else equally useful and timely just because I was actively looking. There’s our serendipity theme again!
Whilst I have had to be somewhat versatile and amenable this week to different noises,disruption, tea-making and exclusion from different parts of the house, each day I have tailored my time and environment accordingly. I have tackled various tasks of my own, around the home, squeezed in appointments and errands that are usually inconvenient. This week has been one of those multi-layered opportunities to maximise an interruption to the recent wave of momentum I have had with my writing. Instead of resisting and resenting this, my somewhat fragmented concentration has been permitted to flit from one thing to another. One day I attended a medical appointment, spent more time in the company of my daughter and drove her to an interview. I gave my son extended attention every evening whilst he rehearsed GCSE exam answers (since the reality of exam season has finally sunk in)! I have pulled dandelions and rampant weeds, polished a piece of neglected furniture, had a haircut, ordered a spare part for a vacuum cleaner, renewed my car insurance and ordered heavy goods online for delivery. I have trusted it as an opportunity for reading and reflection as fodder for more and more ideas and insights yet to form and I have made good some commitments that needed confirming.
So, although I am no expert at disentangling myself from the old and mundane, I absolutely embrace the new and the novel! What I have done is get a little bit better at seizing the moment of ruthless clarity about what is and is not necessary for the life I envision. I’ve had a week of ruthless clarity – and it’s been very refreshing. As I watched my decorator Kev smooth out the rich gold wall covering, replace the worn terracotta paper and as I appreciated the simple white gloss brightening up the chipped almond paintwork, he has been teasing me about my past propensity to overdo the colour! He is “neutralising me” he jokes! Now that will never happen but I do like the idea of simplifying and making classy what was a rather tired bohemian look!! The light, bright new hallway will announce to my friends and family that I am cleaning up my act, after a rather too messy and uneasy association with the familiar.
Such pruning and what Henry Cloud calls a “good hopelessness” about the redundant and merely sentimental, has been stirred in me. Now I aim to keep alert to this awareness and exercise the courage to allow my overwhelming “Yes” to dictate to and cut off the inevitable “No’s” I have been tripping over for in my hallway, living space and perhaps my thinking space for far too long.
Some of the best moments in life are not those I have been expecting. In fact the more I have come to terms with the detours and even disasters along the path I have been striving to follow, the more I have been (as CS Lewis might have put it) “surprised by joy”.
I think the beauty of those moments is that they are all the more precious because we didn’t work for them! The fact we didn’t have to is a gift that is returned on the trouble we take in other areas of our lives! The author Horace Walpole coined the phrase “Serendipity” in 1754. The Oxford Dictionary tells us that It was suggested by his title of a fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, in which the heroes ‘were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of. The point is, they were on a quest!
This morning I woke to a stunning play of lights on my irregular bedroom ceiling. It immediately reminded me of the cubist painting Sailboats by Lionel Feininger that used to hang tantalisingly in a stairwell at my stuffy grammar school sixth form as we careered down the stairs to escape our confinement at the end of the dusty day.
So beautiful and yet so random and transient! As I silently observed today, the occasional passing car below would flicker reflected reds or blues as its presence broke up the rays. A perfect study in every hue of tinted white! I wondered how many times I had lain here and missed the interplay of light and shadow!
How many times do we miss the commonplace and fail to see its beauty simply because we had nothing to do with its value? And how much depth and colour and richness of life reveals its existence when we happen to notice or a shaft of light falls upon it? That recognition may come from a burst of natural light or even an insight, recognition or recall!
In my reading and reflection,or learnings from coaches and mentors I am hearing a very important theme of being alert and attentive to the moment and having the ability to capture and file away the moments that life speaks to us, garnering the intensity of the things that are there to be enjoyed and appreciated.These build and enrich the character of our voice. Our voice is defined by our attention and our ability to capture and interpret that which we notice!
We notice far more than just things too! My rough old and fading bedroom ceiling is as nondescript as anything could be! So may be each of us. Until that flicker of recognition dances across our awareness. It only takes a glance, a second look, a pause or recognition of some curiosity to see the wonder in ordinariness. When a factor reveals and surprises, it comes to life and thrills us with its glory, just like a sudden rainbow that fleetingly reminds us of the Presence and promises of God we may hold dear!
What gift is being reserved for you to notice? By failing to look, we will fail to find. We don’t always HAVE to know what we are looking for, as long as we are prepared to admit that we need to discover! Only along the path of learning and intentional growth specific plans and goals can we expect these wonderfully arbitrary discoveries although we are never quite sure what or when they will be!
Today, notice, capture and be enthralled by something or someone!
Are you living life as If you are a genius?
So “far out” you have nearly fallen over the edge?
Painfully tottering on the edge of genius and insanity?
So heavenly-minded you are no earthly good?
Born “for such a time as this” but can’t tell the time?
Caught in a mass of barbed wire
Slowly strangling in No Man’s land
Like a panicked war horse breaking rank; lost its charge.
By now, a few weeks into my new blog. I’m sure you have caught the fact that I am convinced that we all possess a sense of identity, life and truth that wants to burst out. It is happiest when the rules of common practice are broken. That’s why I am already quarter way through drafting a book Disentangling Genius aimed at subjects and survivors of frustration, disappointment and loss who want to disentangle their genius into freedom. So that they can fulfil their unique, vital and timely purpose!
I am sharing with my future readers how to recognise besetting patterns or cycles that sabotage their best intentions and efforts. There is a metaphor of artistry and heart felt appeal for creative expression. This is an evocative and reflective pursuit reaching out to the artistically inclined. The use of metaphor, illustration, colour and visual imagery is a strong and authentic feature of my work. Really, I get “high” on colour!
As a child, I eagerly took up schoolgirl dares. The traits of daring and courage have become increasingly important to me as I have lived, loved and lost, always to re-emerge somewhat humbler, weaker and yet stronger! So I am calling out the frustrated tribe: we know that inside we are truly free. More free than anyone who is not frustrated or has forgotten what frustrated felt like!
Free. Inside. My passion is for that sense of freedom to make an entrance into our physical, actual life. So that, as the Bible assumes, we shall prosper as our soul prospers! This revealed freedom will inspire and evoke rather than simply make an impression. This is who I am and who you are at our core. Whether we ever straighten this out depends on how much it matters to us that we do.
We are the Tangled. We are the subjects, survivors and thankfully, those who travel with us, the supporters or Unpickers of the ravages of disappointment, cold shouldering, obscurity and misrepresentation. We call the mess, the loss and the necessary detours. We cut the losses, we unravel that we may recast, readjust and re-vision. That’s OK. We know now that we have no remaining fear of setback because we have stared it in the face and still stand. We are only the richer for it.