Philosophy, Uncategorized

Where did twenty years go?

the-eleventh-hour-disaster-alarm-clock-clock

I am not a huge participant on social media, finding it all a bit unnecessary and narcissistic but a few weeks ago on my Facebook page up popped a name from my past with a friend request. With only a slight hesitation I pressed the button and initiated the start to a sequence of messages, culminating in a plan to meet up last Sunday.

This lady, I shall call her Jill, to respect her privacy, and I had been colleagues and friends  for many years until a series of life events had slowly separated us both emotionally and geographically. We had both been through the brutal time of separation and divorce before finally emerging as a more knowing person, more self reliant person and willing to take a gamble on a new relationship. When we had last seen each other we had been in our mid forties, now we are middle aged women in our sixties. As I dressed for the meeting on Sunday morning I felt unsure, nervous, apprehensive. Would we recognise one another? How would time have treated us?We had been at the peak of our teaching careers, well groomed and smartly dressed, part of the have it all generation running full time careers and families, successfully juggling all the balls in the air before everything started to tumble down.

I arrived first at the small tea shop we had chosen for this momentous meeting and sat for five minutes with butterflies churning in my stomach. Then the door opened and without thinking I stepped forward and was engulfed in a hug of such strength and warmth there was no denying the warmth of Jill’s greeting. Settling ourselves with hot drinks the conversation jumped and skipped throughout the years and ranged from topic to topic: children, work, men and relationships, redundancy and illness, surgery and house moves, retirement and lifestyles. Some two hours later we drew breath and realised that although life had taken us down very different paths we still had much in common. As with everyone we had both suffered losses, gone through periods of illness and recovery, had more wrinkles and a few more curves to show for all those years but inside we hadn’t changed very much at all and the years fell away as we talked.

We failed to pinpoint the exact year when we had last been together but it must be heading for twenty years ago and yet within a matter of hours I felt a deep connection that would have taken months if not years to build with a ‘new’ friend. This was the first meeting, there will be more I’m certain as we both felt really pleased to have come together again and hopefully this time life won’t conspire to keep us apart for so long. An old friend is irreplaceable because the ground work was done a long time ago; we already know so much about each other that it seems we can just jump back on the track and set off again. What a gift! Thank you Facebook!

Uncategorized

Gratitude 2

In my last blog post I wrote about the worry of my daughter facing the unknown with a breast lump. We have a strong family history of breast cancer so staying positive was not easy for either her or me, so the relief on hearing that she has a harmless hormonal cyst was huge. I lost my grandmother and mother to this disease and underwent preventative surgery in my 40s as I had by then had over a dozen cysts removed, a decision I have never regretted. It now looks as though my daughter may be following the family pattern of throwing up cysts as she matures but the treatments have improved so much that she was able to receive diagnosis within two weeks of first finding the lump and will now be monitored on a yearly basis. The C word is still scary but not in the way that it was for my Mother back in the 1980s, today there is far greater knowledge, a wider range of treatment options and an amazingly supportive breast care service run by the NHS in UK.

 

There is much to be grateful for and Breast Cancer Care will continue to be my number one charity to receive support

breastcancer care

https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/

mental health, Philosophy, Uncategorized, Walking

Gratitude

waterfall

This is Llanrhaedr Waterfall, the highest in Wales and this afternoon we took a walk through the hills to reach the top of the waterfall. At the base of the falls there is a small car park and tea shop at the end of a four mile long narrow country lane The road stops here and you can go no further. There is no mobile signal or internet, and the silence is broken only by the sounds of red kites wheeling in the skies or sheep bleating as they make their way down the hillside with the barks of the collie dogs at their heels.

The autumn colours are deepening, the reds and oranges changing the countryside with each passing day as the shades intensify. There were a few other hardy walkers out this afternoon but not enough to spoil our pleasure in a glorious afternoon, a testing walk and a cup of tea in a delightfully quirky tea room whose decor cannot have changed in the last 50 years.

There is something very calming and reassuring about being in such a remote and beautiful place; it is more than just appreciating the natural beauty of the scenery; there is something grounding about being in a place which has changed so little for many hundreds of years. The buildings we passed were farm houses and barns, both fields and hillsides were covered in sheep and bracken and for just a few hours it was so easy to leave behind the 21st century. So much of today’s technology is amazing and helps us to connect with friends and family from all over the world – this blog is just one example- but it also a millstone weighing us all down with the need to keep up, to show that we are connected and in tune, we are having a busy and interesting life….and so on. But just for a few hours to know that no one could reach me was bliss. I had no need to be a supportive parent, a dutiful daughter, a caring friend but could truly look after myself, could relish the opportunity to replenish my inner being without feeling in the least bit guilty.

Tomorrow will bring a busy day where I shall be Mum to a frightened daughter as she heads to the breast clinic to have a lump investigated, and Granny to a little boy who can’t quite understand why Mummy is not quite herself so my gratitude for today is huge. Having topped up my reserves I shall be better placed to cope with whatever  tomorrow may throw at us.

It has taken me a very long time to learn the value of self care but I would urge anyone who is in a caring role to find time for themselves on a regular basis to do whatever makes you feel whole.

Uncategorized

Good or bad?

chocolate_cake_boutique_picture_167070

My first instinct on looking at these chocolate brownies is , “They look really good!” There’s clearly a high proportion of dark chocolate in the mix along with walnuts, both of which are ‘good’ for us, so why do I feel guilty when I fancy a treat like this?

When I was growing up I spent a lot of my time with my maternal grandmother who was a warm, gentle loving person who was hard wired to care for and comfort those around her. Her greatest skill was home baking and standing at her side patiently weighing ingredients, beating eggs and lining tins I would see sponges, ginger cake, fruit cake, scones, pies and biscuits appear as if by magic and never once did I see her refer to a cookery book. These well used recipes were part of her DNA, the ritual of the weekly bake etched in to her schedule of cooking, cleaning, laundering and gardening. The process just was. After cooling the cakes would be placed in a selection of old and often battered, biscuit tins( one of which I still use) and the week would begin again with the new produce being eaten in packed lunches, afternoon teas or at any moment when a child or neighbour needed a listening ear in times of trouble or a hurt knee required a bandage and a little treat to make them forget their woes.

So from my grandmother I developed a love of baking, especially when I am worried or stressed, and a love of cake. I am not a greedy person, not overweight so why am I so often made to feel that the polite answer is always to say,’No thank you, not for me.’ I have to be honest that I am writing about a predominantly female issue here. Along with the search for the perfect body and the streamlined silhouette we have pulled up the draw bridge against ‘bad food’ and feel we must forever ignore the cake and reach for the couscous, deny ourselves the stew and dumplings and reach for the stir fry, always with  no sign of regret but rather a self satisfied smirk of superiority that once again we have been strong and chosen the good food.

Meeting up with girl friends for coffee is great when you want to chat, laugh and share news but this is not the time to anticipate the enjoyment of a slice of cake or scone warm from the oven. It only takes one, usually the slimmest of the group, to say loudly, ‘Not for me thank you, I never eat cake,’ and faces will fall before quickly recovering their composure and the group resigns themselves to green tea, black coffee and the second hand pleasure of watching others carry their plates.

Not for one moment would I advocate a regime of daily cake eating,  of shoveling down chocolate and sugar in copious quantities, but somewhere along the line the pendulum has swung too far. My diet is packed with fruit and vegetables, oily fish and lean meat, whole grains, water and red wine and most of my choices are healthy ones, so I have decided at the great age of 63 to no longer be cowed by the cake police because I have a sneaky feeling that most of my friends and acquaintances who smile so sweetly as they decline the offer of the brownie are actually seething inside just like me. My husband always encourages me to enjoy a treat when we have a trip out, says in fact that he loves to see the enjoyment on my face when I take the first bite so at the next gathering of my women friends I shall hold hard to my resolve, break the habit and ask clearly for a ‘fresh scone with butter please’ or ‘ a slice of the coffee and walnut’.

I wonder how many will follow my lead?