Immortal

I sat down today completely prepared to write my next blog post about the next steps in my plans, or on books I’m currently reading, or what this week’s exercises in The Artist’s Way are. However, I’ve just been told the bad news that a friend’s father is in hospital and is critical enough that the family have been called home. So of course, everything else of substance has completely left my mind.

I’m thankful that, so far, while I’ve been old enough to remember neither of my parents have had any major health scares. My mother was ill for a time when I was younger – not old enough to really remember what it was like, but old enough that I have a deep-rooted sense of dread and fear whenever my mum gets a bad cough or cold. Clearly her illness when I was younger was bad enough that it hit my subconscious hard. But thankfully in recent decades (gosh, it’s weird that I can write decade(s) plural now) thankfully our family has been mostly in good health. I sometimes worry about the fact that my dad is forty years older than me, but we’re a close, tightly-knit unit of four and for the most part we’re immortal.

There have been illnesses and deaths in the wider family. Grandparents died before I was born or in my teens, with my great aunt dying just before I started writing this blog in 2014 (one of the catalysts behind it, in fact). Our wonderful next door neighbours, like family – now in their late 80s – have had more and more health problems in the past few years, with a scary touch-or-go situation earlier this year requiring an extended hospital stay.

But obviously my immediate family of four, we’re immortal.

When the same neighbour who had the extended hospital stay suffered a heart attack a few years ago, it was again touch-or-go but thankfully (obviously) one where she pulled through. It was late Autumn, and that Christmas on returning home, the neighbours stayed in their house for New Year’s Eve rather than joining us in my parents’ as usual. We all visited my newly-recovered neighbour of the course of the evening, one-by-one or in drifts and drabs, not wanting to provide too much stress or make her too tired.

As the fireworks hundreds of miles away over London were shown on the TV, she began to cry. It turns out that they were tears of relief – she hadn’t expected to live to see the New Year with us and thank anything that’s out there that she had. And has for every New Year’s since.

My close, wonderful, tightly-knit immediate family of four. Immortal.

Sometimes when I’m talking to mum I can feel that she’s aged. She’s no longer the 30-something who raised small-child me. We’ve had decades pass since then. We’ll be talking about plans, about books we want to read or places we want to visit, and we start to become aware of time. That there’s only so many more birthdays, or Christmases, or New Years. There’s a sense of needing to become realistic about what can be achieved. It’s a need to prioritise.

My dad is forty years older than me; sixty-six. I was alive when his parents were my age. While I think I would like children at some point, I’m currently enjoying being single and living a life free from responsibility. They’re not in the cards any time soon. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that I don’t want my future children to have a grandparent die while they’re really young. It’s a horrible, morbid thought, but we only have 20 years until my dad’s mid-to-late 80s.

We don’t have that many Christmases left.

But despite all of this, aren’t we immortal?

No matter how much I notice or think about time passing, or if things happen to extended family, it’s impossible to imagine anything hitting us until it happens. You can’t prepare. All you can do is hold onto the moments that you have tightly, to remember in moments of irritation how much you love each other, to not to take anything for granted. It’s me realising that I need to make an effort to get home more frequently. Thankfully no one can tell me I need to ring home more often, that I have done in abundance, but nothing that takes place over the phone can compare to the moments that you’re with your family in person.

There can always be an excuse why this isn’t a good weekend to travel home. I live too far away, I work out of town so I have more things to cram into my weekends, I want to travel somewhere else, why can’t they come visit me instead?

But they’re all excuses.

We’re not immortal. I should remember that.

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The only apparatus required for happiness is your pain and fucking going outside

Song of the day: Give yourself a try – The 1975

It’s all just the same pattern really isn’t it? I make big claims about starting writing in this blog again, make introduction posts and give long updates about what’s been going on in my life recently, and then there’s radio silence for months until I post yet another introduction post saying this time I really mean it.

I think there have been multiple problems with this previously. I don’t think I was always in the right frame of mind – while I wanted to write in abstract, I wasn’t mentally committed to it in practice. The second, and main, thing is that I have previously backed myself into a bit of a corner by trying to focus this blog too specifically at times when I probably wasn’t ready for it. As a result I felt too limited before I even began and I couldn’t bring myself to write anything. Case in point, initially I started this to document my journey towards health and happiness. However after posting a couple of food/recipe posts, I started to feel like I could only post health and fitness related items or recipes, and that anything else wouldn’t fit with the ‘theme’ of the blog. So there were no opportunities for some of the posts I’ve written on previous blogs that I’m still proud of, such as book reviews or musings on things I’d come across in the news recently.

My dad calls me a Polymoth – I’m flighty and I have a lot of interests that I like to flit between, some may say too many. I find it hard to settle on one thing because the world is vast and wonderful and there are just so. many. things.Case in point, even just this week here are the things I’d like to work on/improve:

  • Learn to play the guitar
  • Get better at singing (particularly pop/rock singing rather than the classical/choral practice I’ve had for the past 15 years)
  • Resume playing piano
  • Daily yoga
  • Become a runner
  • Paint/draw/do art
  • Read more novels
  • Watch more films
  • Resume learning Italian
  • Learn how to make music using FL Studio 20
  • Redecorate my bedroom
  • Learn more about film/tv/radio production
  • Travel more
  • Go out and try new things more often
  • Eat consistently more healthy

So many things, not an awful lot of time. These are all items that have cropped up time and time again over the past 8 years. In true polymoth fashion, I flit back and forth between things and never give any of them a proper go. I think there’s part of me that feels like too much time spent on one will be to the detriment of the others. But I’m getting older and I’ll be the same age if I spend the time doing the things as I will be if I don’t do the things. Only, in one of these scenarios I’ve developed skills that I wouldn’t have in the other. Time is passing, I might as well use it.

Something needs to change.

The other thing that keeps cropping up is recognising that I need to let myself be bad at things in order to get good at things. Think an underlying issue is a fear of failure like many people who have previously sailed through things early on in life (e.g. GCSEs, A-levels etc.) – if I have to put in some effort, what if I try really hard and am still no good at it? At least if I don’t try it’s an available defense mechanism to blame something other than my own ability (i.e. my lack of effort/’Oh I didn’t really try’). But there’s that famous quote that I can’t quite bring myself to google right now about your taste being better than your abilities and how you need to produce a lot of bad work in order to get to the good work.

I want to use this blog to let myself explore things again, and I’ll combine this with working through The Artist’s Way. Because why not? I need to use the blog to just do, not just think about what I should do. Therefore it’s not a ‘lifestyle’ or ‘fitness’ blog, it’s whatever I need it to be at the time. I need to develop some discipline in just getting stuff done whether I’m motivated or not. I can’t create good things if I don’t put in the time.

This is day one. I can either spend the next 365 days being productive and working on things, or I can spend the next year wishing I was doing more. It may be uncomfortable, it may mean facing some harsh truths about my motivations or discipline or inability to commit, but I’d rather be able to look back in the future at all the things I’ve done rather than at all the things I didn’t do. Let’s see how this goes.

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