A Design For Life

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

The ‘Epicurean Epitaph’, a quote attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, often now used at humanist funerals.epicurus-3

I found myself thinking about this yesterday, prompted by a Facebook meme.

It doesn’t just apply to a way of looking at death. It can also be a way of looking at life.

The basis of Epicurus’ philosophy after all, his lifestyle and that of his friends and followers, was looking for the things that make us happy and then as much as possible having those things in our lives.

Not in Hedonism: self-indulgent and unrestrained behaviour – a common misunderstanding of his ideas – but more in a satisfaction with life: involving moderation, respect for others and friendship.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

This could just as much be about happiness as it is a way of coping with the concept of our mortality. We all have peaks and troughs in our lives. There are times when things seem to be going well, when we’re making progress, when we’ve achieved some of our goals and are looking to continue onwards.

There are other times when life seems bleak, when nothing seems to work, where everything is going wrong – even to the extent that we give up hope.

Basic needs like food & water, shelter, safety, health, relationships. Simply said – not so simply achieved! Certainly not all at once. Sometimes we seem to have them all; other times none of it!

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

‘A while back’ – I’m shocked sometimes when I think about just how long ago it was! – I was living and working in and around London, working in Finance.  I was “doing OK”, not great, but “OK”.

I met a girl, we moved in together. She was also “doing OK”. We went to restaurants, pubs and gigs: together and with friends. We travelled a lot. We moved to Brighton, then to Sutton Coldfield. We got married, then had children. Twins: Jake and Ellie. Great kids! Having been made redundant earlier I became their full time stay-at-home Dad: for 3 years, until they started pre-school in preparation for school proper. By this time we were here in Wales.

Now, 5 years later, we’re separated. I live alone, in a small house: fine just for me but nothing like our old family home. The children who were my life I see now just 2 days a week: most of 1 day on the weekend and 1 evening after school.  And to be honest I’ve struggled to pick up with my career where I left off. The industry is very tech-driven and seems to have moved on, irrespective of all my experience. My age counts against me too I think; having to start again as it were a lot of the jobs I am qualified for I think are taken by young people.

We had a big house, and a good lifestyle: travel, good food, fun. Now I sometimes struggle even with the basics. Then I spent nearly all my time with my beloved Jake & Ellie; now I often feel like I hardly know them, like they’re growing up without me.

It’s very easy to look back and think things were perfect though isn’t it? I know they weren’t, even then.

Further back –  in New Zealand, for instance, before I found my feet career-wise here – I sometimes struggled, financially and socially. Even after I moved to the U.K. there were difficult times: I got caught up in the mortgage interest rate crisis of the ‘90s, and leaving the somewhat extreme religious group I got mixed up in was necessary, but still difficult, not least as it meant cutting myself off from all my ‘friends’ & having to start again socially.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

I had tough times before, some good times, and now difficult times again. Life has its ups and downs. It’s just a question of perspective isn’t it? I’m trying to be grateful for what I do have. Great children who love me, food & shelter, safety, reasonably good health, friendships.

That’s more than millions of people all over the world can say. In many ways I’m lucky, despite what the reality of my life seems to be a lot of the time.

“I had not; I did have; I do not have; I do not mind”

I’m trying very hard to improve the things I can, while learning to accept and make the most of life as it is.

Thank you Epicurus: those are indeed wise words.

Advertisements

Three Beautiful Things

Some time ago there was a meme doing the rounds of the internets called “Three Beautiful Things” (3BT). It may still be there and I just hadn’t noticed, in some corner of the internet that I haven’t caught up with yet: it’s quite possible.

The basic idea behind it is that no matter how bad your day seems to have been that you can always try to find good (‘beautiful’) things that have come out of it. “The Power of Positive Thinking”, and all that. It’s a cliche, yes, but it works: as long as you’re not blinded to reality to the extent that you completely ignore your problems. The buggers have a habit of sneaking up on you when you’re not expecting it and biting your backside if you ignore them for too long, in my experience!

‘3BT’ is particularly good when you’ve had ‘one of those days’ where everything seems to  go wrong, or you have a setback of some kind on your otherwise Glorious Golden Path of Progress.

On days like that you sometimes find yourself scratching around to find some positivity! The “Three Beautiful Things” are still there though: you just have to look.  They may seem trivial, unimportant even, but they’re still there: and that’s what matters. They are still things in what seems like a bad day that can lighten the gloom. “Small is Beautiful”. When you find them you can realise that maybe your day hasn’t been so bad after all. ( I believe psychologists and life coach types call this sort of thing “reframing“). 

Without boring you with the details, my day today has been a bit like that – so here are my Three Beautiful Things.

    • I got my hair cut. I tend to let my locks – what’s left of them! – get straggly, and – as with many other things – put off getting them cut. Today I decided to get smartened up, and a lovely lady named Helen gave me a good smart cut, along with an equally smart beard trim. We had a good chat as well; chattiness is a skill most hairdressers have along with their cutting prowess. I look and feel much better.
    •  I treated myself to a big greasy bag of chips. With salt and vinegar: all the trimmings, a guilty pleasure!
    • I found a site for freelance writers which I think suits my skillset and experience, and which I think could prove very rewardng in days to come.
    • I updated one of my CVs with my recent experience to help with the possibility of finding some sort of ‘real job’  – as my well-meaning friends keep telling me  I should – in addition to my self-employed earnings.

Yes, I know: that’s four, not three.

Maybe my day really wasn’t so bad after all!

Birds, bees, needles & lots of spots

1-DSC_1360

It was during the recent trauma – and closeness – of our vigil with Ellie during her week in hospital with ‘the pox’.

She slept a lot of the time, day & night, due to her illness & the medication she was taking. She’d just recently awoken, & we were doing ordinary things, like watching children’s TV or videos, & chatting.

We got to talking about our being in hospital when she & Jake were born, when out of the blue she said:

“Doctors make babies, don’t they?”

Umm…

Continue reading

From the Mouths of Babes and Infants…

It was a difficult time, for all of us, when Ellie was so sick & in hospital with her nasty infected chickenpox.

The Mummy was talking to her about it, saying “It was really hard seeing you so sick in hospital, Ellie”

She straight-away replied: “But Mummy, remember the fun we had in the playroom there”.

Wow.

Such wisdom from a 4-year-old!

We can definitely learn a lot from even very young children 🙂

For more Magic Moments just click the pic:

Related: The Story Behind the Photo

Shhhh!

Jake, to me, 1 day last week, in hushed tones:

“Daddy, I love you both: I love Mummy too – but I love you the best”

😀

For more post like this just click the pics:


Wot So Funee?

My Letter to Matilda Mae

A year ago on Sunday the lovely Jennie, who writes the brilliant ‘Edspire‘ blog, tragically lost her beautiful 9-month-old baby Matilda Mae to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as ‘Cot Death’ .

Bloggers & well-wishers all over the world have been getting together to try to share Jennie’s grief & to celebrate & commemorate the brief life of her beautiful & much-loved little girl, writing ‘Letters to Matilda Mae‘.
Continue reading

A Brief History of Messy Play

It’s been long time since I did a messy play post; not since April in fact. Too long!

The main reason is that I take a lot of photos so going thorough them, selecting the best ones, adding my watermark etc. takes time – time that I often don’t have.

So here at last is what we’ve been up to, messy-stylee!

Jake & Ellie’s favourite type of messy play is probably foody play.

Back in April & May we had several sessions, & they loved it. We got very messy; me included.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We just grab any old or cheap foodstuffs we find lying around, stick them in little bowls & give them a big bowl each. They then mix it up in their bowls while I add water on demand. Until their bowls are full, that is: even now they still don’t seem to have the concept of “too much water”.

We use – for instance – flour, old or unwanted breakfast cereals, lentils, whole or crunched-up old organix crisps, old bread / breadcrumbs, old biscuits, sometimes old fruit. They love it!

I’d love it more if they’d help with the clean-up operation, but that’ll come. I hope…

At other times they like to try their hand at ‘gardening’ – a.k.a. playing with dirt!

Later in May they decided to take the remains of foody messy play & plant them! Obviously if you put food into a pot of dirt, add compost & water then it will grow into plants which you can then pick & eat.

1-DSC00847

Fortunately for us they seemed to forget about this project soon afterwards, so they weren’t disappointed at seeing no reward for their toil!

Also in May they did some painting which I think is their most creative yet. I set them loose in the garden with a big slab of cardboard, paints & brushes & let them at it! I was delighted with what they came up with. Totally unbidden by me they started sticking bits & pieces from the garden onto the wet paint: sticks from plants I’d pruned, dandelions, grass.

Their painting became an ‘Installation’: Tate Gallery here we come!
1-DSC00869

1-DSC00875
1-DSC00882

Later on, with a little help from me, Jake worked out that combining different coloured paints together made a new colour! He then spent the rest of the session as The Mixer: making new colours for Ellie to paint with.

1-DSC00880
1-DSC00884

I’m not sure what happened in June; it seems to have been a MessyPlay-Free Zone. I do know that we grown-ups were pretty busy with house-hunting.

In July however they did some more great painting, this time in our new house. Jake was once again doing some great mixing, & I love the vibrant colours he produced!

1-DSC00109

1-DSC00111

More recently we bought a little cardboard house for them to paint & decorate, & they’ve really enjoyed it.

1-DSC00186

That deserves a post of its own though I think: sometime in the next 4 months. Hopefully sooner!

I’m linking this post up with Jennie’s ‘Messy Play for Matilda Mae’ blog-hop: for more Messy Play posts like this just click here.

Edspire  Messy Play

6 Months On, We Still Grieve

I was listening to music this morning, as I often do, & this song came up –  purely by chance.

Musically it’s stunning – after all, it’s Peter Gabriel so that’s almost to be expected.

I was very moved by its lyrics.

It appears to have been written by someone who knows its subject matter well: Grief.

I then hunted around on YouTube & was equally struck by this stunning video made for the song.

It was 6 months ago today that Jennie, who blogs & tweets as ‘Edspire‘, lost her beautiful 9-month-old baby girl Matilda Mae to SIDS; also known as ‘cot death’.

Obviously I’m not in a position to judge but this song, its words & the video seem so fitting, almost perfect. It’s featured in the film ‘City of Angels’, which also seems appropriate.

So I thought it fitting to share it here on this sad day.

As ever, any words I might come up with are utterly inadequate; here instead are the lyrics:

It was only one hour ago;
It was all so different then.
Nothing yet has really sunk in.
Looks like it always did,
This flesh and bone;
Just the way that we are tied in.
But there’s no one home.
I grieve ……….. for you.
You leave ……….. me.

So hard to move on.
Still loving what’s gone.
They say life carries on.
Carries on and on and on and on

The news that truly shocks
Is the empty, empty page
While the final rattle rocks
Its empty, empty cage.
And I can’t handle this.

I grieve ……….. for you.
You leave ……….. me.

Let it out and move on.
Missing what’s gone.
They say life carries on.
They say life carries on and on and on

Life carries on in the people I meet,
Everyone that’s out on the street,
In all the dogs and cats,
In the flies and rats,
In the rod and the rust,
In the ashes and the dust.

Life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on

Life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on

Just the car that we ride in,
The home we reside in,
The face that we hide in:
The way we are tied in.
As life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on.

Did I dream this belief
Or did I believe this dream?
Now I will find relief.

I grieve ………….

Matilda Mae: gone but never forgotten

Overcoming

My wonderful twins Jake & Ellie have been inspiring me.

I’ve been so impressed with their determination.

They want to do almost everything they see anyone else, especially older children, doing.

Even if – especially if? – it scares them.

They seem to think that almost nothing is, or should be, beyond them. Such self-belief, such confidence!

Perhaps not always grounded in reality, but it’s there nonetheless. And it seems to be working for them.

In April, for instance, they launched themselves into climbing a tree, completely independently.

1-DSC00690

They got stuck, & cried. I lifted them out – then they climbed straight back up again!

On Saturday we had the rope bridge. The first chance they’d had to climb it for weeks, normally they’d attempt it, get scared & I’d help them across. This time they charged over as if it was the easiest thing in the world. There were a few shouts of “I did it!” on the other side!

1-DSC00995

click to enlarge

On Monday they insisted on going on a zip-wire for the first time. After being too scared at first, they went back & loved it.

Then last night they spontaneously did rock-clambering for the first time, & really took to it – again with their determination overcoming their fears.

1-DSC01018

click to enlarge

They’ve seen something they wanted to do, overcome their fears & just gone & done it.

Life is full of obstacles. Things that it can throw at us can be daunting, overwhelming even. Or, in Ellie’s words: “a bit scary”.

There are things that we should do in order to have a better life, & things that we must do.

From things like providing for your family – emotionally, mentally, financially – to things like fighting cancer.

Jake & Ellie are determined, & strong. They fight their fears, & conquer them.

They are an inspiration. I have challenges to face, challenges which sometimes seem overwhelming. They have spurred me on to see that I can overcome my fears, that I can be determined, that I can fight & that I can win.

If these little 3-year-olds can do that then so can I. And so can we all.

Emma has. Cancer came at her, and she fought back. “Cancer we’re coming to get you!” is her war-cry. She’s been through a really hard time – but she’s winning.

She’s faced her fears, she’s fought for herself & for her family, & she’s coming out on top.

Jake & Ellie overcome. Emma overcomes. And so can we all.

So I’ll see you on the other side. And together we can shout “I did it!”

This post is my entry for today’s ‘Shoulder To Shoulder To Day’ blog-hop: bloggers coming together to support Emma Day in her fight against cancer, especially while she was receiving treatment in isolation & unable to be with her family.

There are some great posts there; to read them, or to add your own,  just click here

Shoulder to Shoulder to Day

Shoulder to Shoulder To Day #S2S2D

An amazing thing has been happening here in the online parenting community over the last few weeks.

Emma Day, a young Mum who blogs over at Crazy With Twins, has been struggling with cancer. Having had an operation which was only partially successful she then had to undergo treatment with radioactive iodine. Distressing enough in itself it also meant her being in complete isolation for 5 days, then unable to go within 1-2 metres of anyone for 10-16 days, and – worst of all – within 1-2 metres of her baby twins for up to 28 days!

The full story is here, and you can read all about her struggle with cancer here.

The parent blogging community rallied around. Victoria & Firefly Phil set up ‘Shoulder To Shoulder To Day’ & invited bloggers to give Emma their support in this difficult time, mainly by writing cheerful & inspirational posts for her to read while in isolation.

The good news is that her treatment has been much more successful than expected & she is now in full contact with her family again!

We have decided to carry on with the blog hop as planned, with not only cheerful & inspirational posts, but also to raise awareness of the dangers of cancer irrespective of age or circumstance. We’re urging everyone to get anything suspicious checked as soon as possible; in Emma’s words “unlike me who left it years”.

We’re also raising awareness of the fantastic work of Maggie’s Cancer Centre & of Emma & her friend Sarah running the Race For Life to raise funds. Emma’s sponsorship page is here.

We’re also looking for a sponsor to buy an iPad for the iodine room at the Cheltenham General Hospital; anything used there can’t be taken back outside due to radioactivity & has to instead be destroyed. A permanent iPad there for anyone else undergoing treatment like Emma’s would be a fantastic help. If you can help or if you know someone who can please let us know.

So if you have a cheerful or inspirational post you’d like to add please do so!

Even better, if you have an experience of cancer that you’d like to share we’d love to read it.

I’m honoured to be able to host this wonderful blog-link today as part of the parent blogging community, along with Mary at Over 40 and a mum to one.

So thank you for reading, & please go ahead: read, write, enjoy!

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…
Powered by Linky Tools