Bad news: my car is sick.
Good news: the garage is within jogging distance. So after dropping it off at half seven this morning I got the chance to jog back home along the Railway Walk - a leafy corridor chugging along behind housing estates, factories, and under the stuttering stop-go lanes of the M1.
What a treat it was to be reminded how the world looks and smells early in the morning, before traffic smells dull its sharpness and our own busy-ness descends like a veil to cut us off from what is all around.
The ripe scent of honeysuckle tangled amongst the trees and shrubs. A pair of bright blackbirds hopping away from me, as light as their own feathers. Splatters of pigeon poo decorating the leaves of nettle beds. Miniature scaredolls watching me from the top of their bamboo sticks in the allotments.
Even a passing cyclist left behind a delicate scent of shower gel, shampoo and clean skin.
For some distance I followed a dog walker. His head was bent over a phone the whole time. He noticed none of it I assume, since my puffing appearance seemed to shock him.
How many mornings is that me? Making to do lists in my head the moment I wake up. Running through the conversations I need to have. Snapping on the chattering radio which drowns out the birdsong in my garden. Working out what I’ll do when. Firing up the laptop to check emails and see on Facebook and Twitter what everyone I know is saying, doing and thinking about.
How many mornings is it you?
This morning on Facebook, before I headed out to the garage, I saw one friend had posted a picture of a journal she’s bought. The front cover reads ‘Let’s Go On An Adventure’.
Beneath it another friend wrote: “It’s called waking up every morning.”
I just have.
Posted by Jane Matthews on 07/26 at 07:13 AM
This morning I was thinking about stories.
I’ve just got back from assisting at a teacher training for people from all over the globe who want to live and share the Heal Your Life messages of loving ourselves and changing our thinking.
Which is where the stories come in. We all arrived with our stories of hurt, disappointment, fear, lack of self belief, and worse. And during the course of a week replaced them with new stories of peace and fulfilment, hope, abundance, love and connection.
All it took was a decision: a choice to let the old story go with forgiveness and compassion and replace it with new thoughts and beliefs.
I’ve been through this powerful process so many times and yet my soundtrack STILL catches me out often.
Drunk in charge
Today I recalled last Monday night when I accompanied a friend to hospital and as we waited (and waited and waited) she pointed out a man who seemed to be slowly collapsing in his chair. dangerously lower and lower.
He’d arrived alone and for a moment we both visualised the mess that would follow when he lost consciousness completely and crashed headfirst onto the tiled floor.
So I jumped up and knelt in front of him. “Are you ok?”
He shook his head very slightly “No”, then began to cry.
I looked up. No sign of any hospital staff. I put my arm around him and felt him slump. He smelt of alcohol and staleness and he was drifting into unconsciousness.
I wedged my body in a way that I was supporting him. He could not fall. But neither could I move to summon help.
Yet the waiting room was full to bursting. There were patients and their loved ones propping up the walls. Why did no-one else offer to help him - or me?
It was probably ten minutes before a couple of other women attracted the attention of staff and help arrived in the form of a male nurse who manhandled the man into a wheelchair. He opened his eyes briefly but could no longer speak and one side of him lolled heavily. Possibly he’d had a stroke.
And I returned to my friend to wonder why no-one had stepped in to help me hold him up. My story was that people don’t want to get involved.
Millions of Good Samaritans
But I know it’s not true. Every day there are stories of people stepping up and stepping in. The millions of silent good Samaritans who appear during every new episode of the violence that we are hearing about right now, to comfort the injured and dying, the trained staff who pick up the pieces, the strangers who open their homes.
I see there were so many reasons why no-one came to help:
The staff – who had already been on duty for long, exhausting hours – were flat out caring for other equally sick people.
Those in the waiting room had not noticed the man come in alone and assumed I was his wife or girlfriend.
Some of them had noticed he was drunk and were scared.
I didn’t ask for help. (A whole nother story in itself.) So people assumed I had everything in hand.
Which is true?
I know it is whichever I choose to believe, and that how I choose matters more than anything.
If I choose to believe ‘people don’t want to get involved’ I feel lonely, resentful, despairing.
If I choose to think they are confused or afraid or lost in their own struggles, I feel only compassion for all of us who were there that night. We’re all doing our best.
It’s either a dog eat dog world in which everyone is out for themselves, or it’s a world in which it is up to every one of us to see the humanity in each other and reach out to share what we have in common.
Posted by Jane Matthews on 07/24 at 08:11 AM
We get to choose.
Thank you for coming to look for me here.
Hands up, for the first few months, 2013 was not looking anything like a best year for me.
Radical action was called for, so as of April my sister and I committed to heading north to do a couple of legs of the Coast to Coast Walk each month from now until we complete the 190 miles.
Consequently, for the rest of this year I am not blogging in this space but over at my Skin and Blisters blog - set up to record the journey across Britain.
And no doubt in our lives too. See you over there?Posted by Jane Matthews on 05/19 at 03:42 PM
It’s no secret that laughter is good for us, lowering our blood pressure, reducing stress, and firing up our immune systems. Which would be reason enough to do it, quite apart from the fact that very little beats a really good laugh.
I’m not talking about wry smiles or smug titters: the kind of response we feel to a lot of the cynical humour we see on screen these days.
No. I mean that helpless kind of laughter that comes from somewhere deep inside and has us at its mercy, even though our eyes may be streaming with laughter tears and the sound we’re making is completely embarrassing.
Think back for a moment. When was the last time you laughed so much and so unexpectedly that your muscles went weak and you couldn’t speak? You really let go and to hell with how you looked?
According to scientists, we laugh on average 17 times a day, but I suspect they must be counting chuckles. For a really good belly laugh workout seems to me as rare as a newscast reporting good news.
Those same scientists claim that as children we laugh on average 400 times a day, which is, ironically, a rather sobering thought. It’s not that life isn’t serious sometimes, and there’s certainly plenty going on to make us weep. But the truth is that letting laughter into our souls makes us so much better able to deal with life’s challenges. And perhaps take ourselves a whole lot less seriously too.
The best thing about laughter is, of course, that it is hopelessly contagious. Hearing or seeing someone else get the giggles sets us off. So today, let’s hear it for the kids in this wonderful video shared by my good friend Lizzie.
Lighten up and let yourself go. You’ll feel better for it.
Posted by Jane Matthews on 11/15 at 09:58 AM
Readers of Best Year will know that I have a particular beef with my former colleagues working in journalism. When did the idea of ‘news’ get hi-jacked to mean only a certain sort of news: the bad, the disastrous and the downright ugly? And how interesting it might have been to monitor the effect that a different news agenda during the few weeks of the Olympics had on our public mood. Of course bad things were still happening in the world, yet the headlines that greeted us every morning were about people achieving their dreams; about success and co-operation and friendliness and belief. In which frame of mind I wonder - despair and cynicism or joy in other’s success and the potential of individuals to make their dreams come true - we are more able to address the bad stuff and deal with the disastrous?
With which preamble my mission today is to deliver one activity I suggest in the book, to share and spread good news rather than bad, and to ask you to pass it on. It may not banish the autumn fog and rain that we’re looking out on at the moment, but perhaps it will light a small warm glow inside that will remind you that sometimes it takes very little to turn a bad news day into a good one. And very little to make a big difference in people’s lives.
Here it is, a short video showing how something as insignificant as a plastic bottle is changing lives. Enjoy! Film: Bringing light to dark places
Posted by Jane Matthews on 10/22 at 10:59 AM
Just had to share a moment that is still bringing a small lump to my throat when I think of it.
I’d just got back from another amazing week at Serenity Retreat and even at Gatwick Airport a little of the energy our workshop had generated seemed to be in the air. We arrived early, there wasn’t even a trace of a queue at passport control and no-one glaring at us in the customs hall.
As I emerged into the greetings area I spotted three young children, each fidgeting with excitement and holding a hand drawn sign, which together spelt out ‘Welcome’ ‘Home’ ‘Nana’ . Someone was in for a lovely welcome, as were many others judging from the eagle eyed relatives and friends lining the barriers. I’ll let you into a secret here: I’m such a sucker for the emotion of such homecomings that I almost always plan to arrive half an hour early to meet any flight so that I can enjoy the people rushing into each other’s arms, the hugs and flowers and tears of homecoming.
Mine had been a working trip, and one I’ve now made many times, so there was no-one to greet me. Or so I thought.
I was wrong. It was the last day of the Paralympics and the army of volunteers who have given up their holidays to welcome the world to London were still in attendance.
As I headed beyond the barriers a group of three London 2012 hosts, dressed in the distinctive pink and purple I’d only seen in TV images, caught my eye and beamed broadly at me.
“WELCOME HOME,” they said with shining eyes and big grins.
“Thank you.” I smiled back. It was something so simple and yet the joy and sense of connection it fired in me was enormous. The joy of being welcomed. The pleasure of connecting to others through a smile. My gratitude to them for that act of kindness, and no doubt thousands more over the last six weeks.
It was a reminder that sometimes the smallest acts can make more difference than we ever know. Why not dust off your copy of Have the Best Year of your Life and choose an activity in the ‘give’ category to practice right now?Posted by Jane Matthews on 09/11 at 07:46 AM
Below you will find previous blog posts that have been archived and categorised to help you.