Wish I’d said that

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some people know how to squeeze ever ounce out of life without needing to read my book (strange but true smile !)

As my Aussie friend Jane prepared to head home after four years based in the UK she had this to say:

“In 4.5 years
I have had 75 trips to 23 different countries
I have seen either 4/7 or 5/7 of the ancient wonders of the world depending on which list you choose to use
And 4/7 of the wonders of the medieval world
I have swum in or crossed every sea/ocean in the world (I think)
I have touched 5/7 continents in the world
I have climbed the Eiffel Tower 4 times
I have paraglided off a cliff in Turkey
I have kayaked across two and hiked up one ffjord
I have been to 7 international music festivals, 48 gigs and 17 west end shows
I have been to Ascot, Wimbledon twice, and the Oval
I have seen Australia play Ghana at football.
I have bought 15 pairs of nearly identical, but entirely needed black heels
I have experienced a white Christmas twice
I have spent a new year’s eve in Red Square in -30 degree temp
I have spent a new year’s eve on Southbank in London, watching fireworks over the Thames
I have ice skated in 7 different cities
And been to every Guggenheim except the new one in Dubai.
Not a bad effort quite frankly.

There’s an unfortunate p.s. to this list since Jane’s attempt to add an eighth city to her ice skating total ended in a broken ankle, torn ligament, and the need to travel straight home from New York rather than lazily through Canada and Hawaii.

But what a great list. I may even get around to writing my own this New Year’s Eve as a reminder than even when I feel as though I am standing still there is plenty to remember, celebrate and be grateful for.  How about you?

And given the subject of my last blog I just want to share one more line from Jane’s message. “My boxes are mostly packed. (I’ll need 4, not 3 as I originally thought, which still isn’t bad given I’ve been here as long as I have and came with 3 boxes!”

See what you can achieve when you shed a bit of the baggage?

Posted by Jane Matthews on 10/19 at 04:08 PM
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Left Luggage

Saturday, October 09, 2010

I knew we were in trouble when less than 30 minutes into the move mum insisted she wanted to keep the pile of bus timetables dated May 2007 and flyers for concerts that took place a year earlier than that.

Part of picking up the pieces from mum’s stroke - and the cancer that came to light during innumerable hospital appointments - has been realising she needs pretty much constant attendance, which in turn means accepting she won’t be able to return to her home on the south coast. It’s taken almost a year to get to this point but, when a house came up for sale next door to my sister we bit the bullet and put mum’s home of 24 years on the market.

So, we booked a week, begged boxes from every supermarket within striking distance, and took a very deep breath. Every life has its clutter: cards from a special birthday, old school exercise books, packs of photos that never made it into albums. My own clutter includes a shank of coarse hair from the tail of our childhood pony, a yellow Chelsea Girl carrier bag (which may not mean anything to the River Island generation but, in the early 70s, was a badge of my cool-ness), and a bronze swimming medallion - as if I might, one day, produce it for my great-grandchildren when they ask if I won any medals in the war. “No, but I did once swim 50 yards in Luton municipal pool.”

weighed down

Somewhere between stuffing the sixth big box with yellowing newspapers (The Falklands, Twin Towers, floods, hurricanes and every other imaginable form of disaster - with only the odd royal wedding for light relief) and discovering three lifetime’s supply of ‘Personality’ soap bagged up at the bottom of a wardrobe, I realised why mum had talked about moving closer to us for the last decade but never done anything about it.

The sheer volume and weight of everything she has accumulated made even simply contemplating change inconceivable.  The only kind of house that could accommodate her life’s clutter would be an even bigger one. And if she lives another 20 years to celebrate her 100th birthday it still wouldn’t be enough time to read every one of the 1,500 books in her collection, or go through the tonnes of folders of ‘useful information, deciding which really are.

(Actually she wouldn’t have time for either of those because to get through all that soap she’d be spending most of her time in the bathroom, endlessly washing her face.)

Put simply, she was too buried by her past to move forward.

In with the new

Those of you who choose to work through ‘Have the Best Year of Your Life’ will soon see that letting go of Stuff - both physical and emotional - is a bit of a theme with me. Firstly, I believe a healthy life is one in which we review all our choices from time to time, whether that’s the things we’re giving house room to - or those we’re giving head room to. I also believe that doing it regularly - tackling one drawer or one corner of the garden shed, or fillling one bag for Oxfam once a month, prevents the sort of overwhelm that, eventually, makes it impossible to contemplate any kind of change, as it did with mum. 

Letting it just pile up, and refusing to consider that you might just have outgrown some of it, is like trying to go on holiday with half a dozen suitcases. You’re far too bothered about lugging it all around and keeping it safe to enjoy the new views, new tastes, new faces and places.

And that’s my other point about not letting anything go. How ever are you going to make room for anything new?

I used to keep every good book I read in the belief I’d want to return and reread them again one day. I was well into my 40s before I understood myself well enough to know the world will keep producing new books and there’ll always be something new I want to read. I can afford to pass the books I’ve read on to someone else to enjoy so there’s enough space on the shelf - and in my life - to experience another writer, another perspective, new ideas.

Here’s an idea: today, why don’t you grab a book you enjoyed - but are now finished with - and leave it in a bus shelter or on a park bench for someone else to discover? I’ve tried it myself (with qualified success it must be said) and blogged about it here.

I’ve seen the alternative and, believe me, those boxes are just going to get in your way as you start your journey…


Posted by Jane Matthews on 10/09 at 06:11 AM
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