I experienced this idea of ‘being in the moment’ last weekend. Still feeling very fragile from my fall, I was reluctant to do much but with my family here we took ourselves off to Sheffield to enjoy a lovely New Zealand lunch at Tamper Coffee. The food was great, the conversation entertaining and I forgot my aches and pain. I was truly in the moment. I think the concept has particular resonance when you are presented with health problems. I have never seen myself as an ‘ill’ person despite the evidence of my various complaints and the rattle of pills in my pocket. As most of these issues are chronic and thus won’t disappear, and indeed in some cases will only get worse, there are choices to be made about how to manage this omnipresence of illness. I could become consumed by them and organise myself as someone who would be defined as ‘sick’. I do not want to do this. Actually I spend most of the day trying to live my life without over occupation with these problems. I think that focusing on living acts as an important counterweight and allows me to be ‘in the moment’ and enjoy the many aspects of life still open to me. I strongly believe that such positivity helps keep illness at bay too and enables me to do the things which give me pleasure. In some ways it is an act of will to disassociate myself from the impact of illness and I have pondered recently on where this comes from.
When I first worked as a probation officer in the 1970s I would go home and spend my evenings worrying about my clients. This made me tired, anxious and in some senses less effective as I became over engaged and lacked a distance to see what was happening. I talked to colleagues and gradually learnt how to switch off emotionally. Whilst maintaining a practical focus on what needed to be done I could detach myself. This meant that in the evenings I could relax more, play in the local table tennis league or in the summer midweek cricket, fall in and out of love and spend time with friends etc. This mental detachment I have used many times over the years and this has both kept me sane, kept issues in perspective and allows me to prosper ‘in the moment’. I can think of many examples of this but one springs to mind.
The day after my marriage broke down circa 1985 (well 7.12.85 around 5.25 pm to be precise!!) I was in a bit of a mess and went to work almost in a daze. I had a coffee with a colleague and he could see my preoccupation. He offered to cover a lecture I was due to give for which I was chronically under prepared having been unable to concentrate over the weekend. Anyway I decided to do it. When I got on the dais and started to think about the content, I was able to put the emotional turmoil into a box, lock it away, as I had to concentrate on the delivery. I then gave one of my best lectures as I stayed ‘in the moment’ and focused hard on the shape of the lecture, thinking on my feet and structuring as I went along. I knew it had gone well and my colleague, who had sat at the back in case I froze, knew it was good too.
The downside of this approach was that as soon as I had finished, I had an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach which I quickly identified and I was back in the emotional crisis of my marriage. This is a dramatic example but in a more mundane way this capacity has helped in many ways. And never more so than at the moment as I try to keep health problems in a box after all I still have plenty of living to do!
The picture above is the Christmas card which might have been. I have been looking for a few weeks for snow so that I could capture a robin in the snow. Last weekend I decided I wanted to get my cards done and had to settle on another robin. Then the day after I had sent all my cards I captured this. Alas it has missed out so I have displayed it here as a virtual card to all my blog readers who would not receive a card from me. Enjoy!
A trend over the past few years has been people announcing that they are not sending cards giving the money saved to charity. Whilst there is a superficial attraction to this and it is a choice that will help swell charity donations a bit I will not be changing my practice. I send around 60 cards a year, I like keeping contact with friends and family spread around the world, I like designing my card using my own photos and is a ritual I will continue even to those who do not now send me cards. Whilst reciprocity is at the heart of card giving I still want to make this communication to those I want to, whatever they do or don’t do with their card giving. In fact for one close friend my card is almost his only card now and it has become more special to him as I have persisted. I give money to selected charities over the course of the year which are not linked to saving money elsewhere but simply motivated by the appeal itself. I like the traditions of Christmas so I will still send cards!
Talking of traditions, have got the tree up now and ordered Christmas Day meat from the butchers, it’s all getting closer. I love getting together with family though configurations of who is with whom changes every year and this year just my immediate family, booked in to Center Parcs for a big change in tradition. Another slight break with tradition, no turkey this year going for a piece of fillet of beef but pigs in blankets, sprouts, stuffing, too much of everything etc of course and still aiming for that bloated feeling around 3.15 just in time to have missed the queen’s speech!
Managed a few bird shots this week. So a pleasant why to end the blog.