Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Birthdays are important.  Mine included.  Tho' it falls precariously between Christmas and New Year in recent years I have thrown caution to the wind and marked this thing called the ageing process on or close to the day itself trusting that whomsoever should be there will be there.

And so it was this year...  I celebrated my birthday amongst family and friends.  It was a lovely evening during which we shared good food, yummy cakes, and laughter.  Sitting around a large oval table were 18 very important people, each of whom has played a significant part in making the last year a special one.

When seeking to gather a group for such a purpose, one must be wise to the fact that life happens and plans change:  I was not to know exactly how many people would be attending until the day, and that was fine.  There are things that merit worrying about.  This was never to be one of them.  For things, I have found, more often than not, work out for the best...

The number eighteen is considered auspicious in China where it is associated with future success and prosperity.  In the Hebrew system that ascribes numerical value to words, the word for life (or 'chai') has the value of 18, making this a particularly favourable number, indicative of a long life.

I know my life is richer for each and every one of those with whom I had dinner.  Individually, and as a group, these are my friends:  the people who make me the person I am.  Looking backwards and looking forwards, birthdays prompt reflection and, to my mind, appreciation.  My friends are those I journey alongside.  They help me, and guide me.  At times, they have supported, and carried me.  They have been there, and that's really what the evening was conceived of to acknowledge.

Age is a number.  It represents something but not, I think, very much.  It is a record of a goalpost I have passed, but fails to do justice to the journey along the way.  And, as it is the journey that interests me, the number concerns me not.

I am comfortable with my age.  Had I responded to my sister's spontaneous sharing from the heart, I might have said something along the lines that I am genuinely happy to be the age I am:  these years have been the opportunity to make relationships and within them learn about myself and about what makes life precious.

Life is short.  Too short to mourn the passing of time.  And too short not to celebrate the now.

Earlier this week, someone shared with me something I had, since its launch in 1998, hitherto failed to notice - the inscription on the £2 coin:  STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS.  My friends are the giants whose shoulders I stand upon, to get a better perspective.  These extraordinary people offer me so much more than they probably know and feature prominently on my gratitude list each and every day.

I returned home laden down with gifts and cards, feeling utterly spoilt, and somewhat overwhelmed.  To have so many of one's loved ones in a room is a powerful and amazing thing.  I struggled to find the words I sought with which to thank everyone for being there:  not just on that evening, but always.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The auction

And the day finally arrived.  We had been to meet them the day before, but there could be no preparation for the feelings that followed.  Anticipation.  Excitement.  Nausea. 
Impulse buys are strange things.  They can go one of two ways.  Time will tell.  
There was a concentrated atmosphere around the hall.  An unconcealed competition.  A rivalry.  It felt risky.  Edgy.  Unnerving.
I could hear the adrenaline building.  Slowly, but surely.  As the lot numbers increased, and we approached. 
My luck was in.  I had only a commission bid to contend with.  And then it was over.  I held up my paddle:  479.
I won!  I won! 

I will take delivery of the piano that is new to me in the new year.  

Life is like a piano.  
What you get out of it depends on how you play it.
Tom Lehrer

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Marking Time

Time is a strange thing.  We know how long a minute is, and how many minutes are in an hour, and how many hours make up a day, and yet a moment is so intangible.  Time is but a series of moments.  And moments pass at different speeds.  This year feels in some ways to have flown by.  And yet, when I survey it as I have done recently, I can acknowledge how much has happened.  How much has been achieved, and how much growth has occurred. 

I wanted to be present with myself and to mark the day in a way that felt right for me, right now.  My feelings showed me the way and guided me as I allowed more moments to unfold, and to envelop and hold me.  I felt peaceful with the reality that it was a whole year ago that we finally said goodbye.  It was a long goodbye and, in many ways, it was last year that I was faced with the biggest loss:  the gap between the mother had known, and the woman I went to visit in those final months.

I was struck by the energy with which the day met me.  Having sat and looked at some beautiful photographs of the two of us the night before, I woke and enjoyed a morning that resembled many others:  I swam.  This time I swam for her.  I swam for she who first introduced me to the water and she who nurtured my love for the element that has become such an important part of who I am.  I swam for a long time, and enjoyed each length to the full.  The sun shone bright, and I felt bright, luxuriating in the fact that there was no goal and no plan:  I swam, and I swam, and I swam. 

The day was what it was.  It was just that and it was just right.  There was no plan, because these things can’t be planned.  I consulted my internal barometer and trusted the accuracy of its reading.  In so doing, it felt as though I got it just right, and yet of course there is no right or wrong.  Mourning is a process whose path can be neither predicated nor measured.  The best way to do it, is the only way to do it:  employing all of the senses and prioritising nothing over anything.