Thursday, 27 November 2014

Breathing-in hope: The Journey (2014) A film by Lance Nielsen

I went without expectations. It was my first première... The excitement awaited me. Outside the cinema a long queue had formed. They certainly were dressed to impress. 

I was impressed (by some more than others). The start time was optimistic. But the feature was well worth waiting for...

This incredible film about finding a way to overcome the most difficult obstacles life throws at us, has lived the tale it tells: it was made on a shoestring, and lack of funds meant it couldn't be filmed all in one go, it had to be filmed in blocks. 

'The Journey' is a spiritual story about how we, as human beings, move forward when the very things that keep us going are taken away.

The movie's themes spoke so clearly to me. It is about loss, and how we come to terms with the most difficult of our emotions. It is about the journeys we must take, in order to make the journeys we are forced to take. Physical journeys. Emotional journeys. From grief, through catharsis, to hope. Discovering ourselves. And re-discovering ourselves, and our purpose for living. 

At its heart, this is a movie about humanity, and what makes us human. It is about the fragility of life, and the preciousness of existence. It is about how we cope, to survive. It is about how we get through those desperate days and dark nights. It is about how we navigate the terrifying products of loss, despair and anguish. It is about learning to breathe again, to see again, to love again, to live again. 

The stellar cast do a simply incredible job. I was captivated from the moment the movie started. I laughed. I cried. It sent shivers down my spine. I was so moved, I didn't want to move as the last scene closed and the credits began to roll. 

Dum spiro spero: While I breathe, I hope.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Giving up the fight in order to win the war

Years ago I went along to a meeting held in a small community hall, to find out how to stop someone I loved from drinking.  Years later I am still to be found in such meetings.  My mission proved fruitless, but I stayed and learnt some invaluable lessons for life.

Addiction is indeed cunning and baffling.  It is also chronic, and progressive.  It is pernicious and insidious.  And it destroys far more than the afflicted individual.  It wreaks havoc with anyone who cares.  And those who are forced to stand by and watch those they love fall foul of addiction's grasping stifling tentacles can suffer worse than the individual who self-medicate in a self-defeating other-injuring attempt to manage.  

I am powerless over anyone else's self-harming behaviour.  I know that now.  But knowing is not always enough.  For I am forgetful, and old habits die hard.  Which is why I need to be reminded.  There will always be a temptation to try a little longer, to fight a little harder, to rage against the illness that has the power to tear families apart from the inside.

For someone whose middle name might as well have once been, 'Responsibility', some of my education has been hard won.  Today I understand the maddening paradox that it is only when I give up the struggle that I can in fact achieve anything.  For it is only through full awareness, deep understanding, and genuine acceptance that I can truly claim to be 'responsible': to have the ability to respond.

By coming to understand how addiction works, I can stand back and see the person I care about hugely as separate from the illness that has for so long threatened (and occasionally been successful in its campaign) to come between us.  

Only in this way is it possible for me to release myself from the claws and jaws of this vile family dis-ease, and move into a position of serenity from which it is possible to make informed choices, rather than hopelessly and helplessly waste time, effort and irreplaceable emotion on a battle I am doomed to lose against an almighty opponent: denial.  

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations, though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.

The Journey, by Mary Oliver

Addiction thrives in the dark shadows of the family system that has not learnt how to recognise its devastating effects and remains embroiled in the chaos it maintains.  There it lurks until someone awakes to the realisation that there are choices - there are things we are capable of changing, but most of us will need support from elsewhere if we are to stand a chance of rewriting the script, and relearning patterns so deeply engrained we know nothing else.  

Spending time around others who know how the story ends is simultaneously humbling and empowering.  Crucial is the reminder that just as we did not cause another's addiction, neither can we control it or cure it.  Only when we are clear about this can we start to focus our precious energies on saving the only life we can: our own. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The end of an era

She was, of course, right...  

The weekend had been a long one.  We had kept busy and maintained a momentum I had not previously thought possible.  We worked long, and we worked hard.  There was much to be done.  And a deadline to meet.  Which we did.

We had, I think, put off sorting through and boxing up these items until we had to.  Whilst they remained there, it was still a home.  Unoccupied perhaps, but a home nonetheless.  Their symbolism hit me powerfully as we locked the door for the last time, leaving only a note in the now clinically empty space to welcome the new owners behind us.

As my mother's (now former) nextdoor neighbour said, it is the end of an era.

The end of an era marks the beginning of another...

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


I felt inside my (oversized) handbag.  There is was.  Smooth and cool.  

My iPod was there, but the earphones weren't.  Somehow, it doesn't seem to matter how large the bag is:  I still manage to forget something.  

I sat down (with a disgruntled sigh), and became aware of the interaction between a mother and her daughter now beside me on the platform.

They, like I, had descended the escalator just a moment too late to catch the train and watched it hurry northbound into a tunnel.  The little girl looked perturbed...  

"Not to worry.  
It doesn't matter.  
It's not worth getting upset about.  
There'll be another along soon.  
You'll see."

- her mother said calmly.

I was mesmerised by the child's curiosity provoked by the novelty the scenario presented and, just for a moment, transported beyond my been-here-a-million-times-when-will-I-learn (this particular lesson: that from ticket gate to platform takes more than 1 minute).

I was reminded that, it didn't matter, and reassured by her statement, that another (albeit on the wrong branch meaning I would need to change) would arrive shortly.  

...Which it did.

We boarded together.  And took our seats.  She with delight and excitement.  Me with relief.  I started calculating how many stops I had ahead of me, and the chances of arriving on time.  I was soon distracted by the little girl's wonder.  It made for a far more pleasant journey.  After all, what did I think I was going to do having worked out I was now running late?

Regardless of whether I find the errant headphones, I may travel with my ears open more often.