The longer you dawdle over something, the harder it is to pick up the pieces again, and that’s the way it has gone with this blog post. I began to write it soon after the last one, which is now all of 9 months ago …… and counting. One day, I will write about procrastination……..
Procrastination is one excuse. Another is that much of what I feel the need to say goes against the way I am. I hate fuss. I am independent. I hate being ill. I hate to appear to be looking for sympathy, approval or compliments. So I deleted it for being too maudlin; another time I savaged it for sounding as if I made mountains out of mole hills; and another because it seemed to disrespect the way others feel about a similar experience…..yet, I feel that I have something to say, and what I want to say comes from life lessons learned over the last two or three years.
In addition, I am rarely happy with what I write, and yet it’s an addiction, with all that implies. During a difficult period in my life, some years ago I came across Martha Beck’s “Finding Your Own North Star.” Beck was a high achieving academic with a busy life when she gave birth to her son, who had Down’s Syndrome. Struggling to make a deadline, as she coped with the demands of an already full life and the new challenges. She decided to take just 15 minutes a day to write, which was all she could spare at first. Needless to say, it was written. That lesson struck a deep chord with me. Paso a paso, as the Spanish say. Just put one foot in front of the other.
I haven’t explored the world as much as I would have liked over the past 3 years, but I have been on a profound personal journey. I learned a lot from it, and that’s what I think is worth sharing. Maybe it’s been a struggle because I was trying to spew it all out at once, so I am going to break it down. So here’s chunk one:
2014 was dominated by three events, but I didn’t realize that they were stages on a journey which was to last longer. I touched on them in a previous post, but they took on more significance as time passed.
The First Event
In May of 2014 my Aunty Dot died, peacefully, at 92 years. For some reason I still don’t understand, I heard myself offering to give the eulogy; me, who never raised my hand in class, who dried up doing a couple of tv interviews a while back, and who once refused to go to receive an award in case I had to say something . As we followed the coffin into the tiny chapel, the lump in my throat tightened, and tears I couldn’t shed scalded my eyes, but here was the minister saying that, “Now Dot’s niece would like to say a few words.” I wobbled to the front of the chapel, pushed my broken reading glasses into place, and launched.
Emigration comes at a price, and that is the guilt you feel for those you leave behind. I poured all of that into the words I mumbled. Glancing round as I walked back to my seat, I realized that I was the only person there who remembered a younger Dot, the young mother, the dreamer, the one who jollied everyone at time of family crisis, the encourager of dreams and my personal cheerleader. That was the portrait I had tried to paint, and it was bitter sweet to be told I succeeded. Apparently my struggle with the broken specs caused suppressed smiles too – I told them they should have laughed – she would have loved that.
Dot had always encouraged my imaginings and understood my need to write, and here I had instant feedback that what I had written had done the job I hoped it would. Despite the sad occasion, that day I found whatever it is inside of me that I needed to stand up and speak in public. It gave me a type of confidence I’d never had before. That might have been Aunty Dot’s parting gift to me, and some months later it was to stand me in good stead.
The Second Event
Sometimes we have instinctive feelings, that embarrass us, and we make up logical reasons to defend our resulting actions. We shouldn’t, we should trust our gut, and that is what I now take away from the decision to return to Tenerife.
Coming back to El Médano in July of 2014 was like that. I couldn’t settle on the island of La Palma, and my decision was guided purely by instinct. Instincts which were so spot on I shiver trying to understand. Some would not be obvious for some months.
The Third Event
After the stress of Aunty Dot’s death, returning to Tenerife at the most stupid time of year, getting my stuff out of storage, Trixy having five tumors removed from various parts of her body, and the struggle to sort out my knee problem, I was looking forward to Christmas in England with my sons and my father, the first time the four of us had spent Christmas together in quite a while. But 2014 had a final punch in store. A silly slip in a bathroom, and a burst cyst, lead to septicemia, and a trip to the ER, followed by a warning that I might not make it to UK for those Christmas festivities, in fact, I should just be thankful that I made it.
That news became a turning point. I determined to do everything I could to make sure that I could go. I began to eat as ridiculously healthily as I knew how, and to exercise more to boost my recovery. By the time I stepped onto the plane 3 weeks later, I was maybe as fit as I had ever been, and I felt it. Christmas was memorable and full of love, and within months I was going to be incredibly grateful for those warm memories.
I can’t say that I stayed 100% that healthy, but I learned a lot about health. I’ve been a yo-yo dieter kind of person all my life, but this was not about losing weight, but about being fit to be able to do what I wanted to do……have a family Christmas. Focusing on that made it easy. Focusing is not easy in these modern times. We have a trillion distractions every day, but with focus, mindfulness if you like, we can move mountains. I will leave you with a quotation from Pearl S Buck, which has long been a favourite of mine, and I find to be invariably true:
“Once the what is decided, the how always follows. We must not make the how an excuse for not facing and accepting the what.”