What REALLY matters to us?

This week has been full of mixed emotions for me. There have been stresses and strains, worries, ups and downs, highs and lows and most importantly, good times. Times catching up with good friends, happy phone calls from family members, important birthdays, and pleasant interactions with kindly strangers.

Sitting watching the early evening news a few days ago I started reflecting on some of the headlines and felt immense sadness when thinking of some of the terrible things decent ordinary people were going through or had had inflicted on them, sometimes with devastating results for themselves and their families. Many times I have written about the pain we feel as we watch the news and have to deal with often unfathomable occurrences and unspeakably dreadful actions, the results of which are beamed into our living rooms.  Then there are times we sit dumfounded as we witness the latest political debacle and the seemingly unfair systems that seem to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

And yet still we find ourselves sweating the small stuff when we go about our daily lives.

We may meditate, read every self help book we can, listen to all the podcasts about positivity we can get our hands on to help us cope with an ever tumultuous world. We may chant, commune with nature, speak to our angels and watch our diet. All these things help at times and give us nuggets of information and inspiration that many times prove to be invaluable. Trust me, I believe. I believe in trying every sensible (and sometimes not so sensible) path to acceptance and understanding. That path that shows us there is a reason for everything and an explanation for everything even when we cannot see it and rail against it. But there are days when it is really hard to stay focused and remind ourselves of all the ways of coping we have learned. These are the days when I guess we just need to go back to basics and remind ourselves of all the things in our lives that are important and reaffirm them.

I remind myself that the people I love and admire for their strength and the way they cope with life did not get that way because their lives always worked out. They got that way because stuff went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in many different ways and at different times, and they got through. I look up to them for sure.

We need to keep our lives in order. Of course we do. Most of us need to work and earn money to support our families. We need to cook, clean and keep our house tidy(ish) We need to keep ourselves in shape and look reasonable. We need to offer support to those that need it and need us. But I for one, need to tell myself in stressful times that the everyday petty trials and tribulations just don’t matter and will be mainly forgotten by next week. Even what we perceive to be major problems will fade to insignificance over the years.

I’m aware of getting older and my thinking is changing with the years. I see it more clearly when people around me are struggling. I can visualise possible outcomes and weigh up situations in a more balanced way than when I did when I was younger. This is both good and bad. On the one hand it is sensible to be prepared and to be empathetic but at the same time the buoyancy of youth is gone: the feeling of being invincible.  But life follows patterns, we change and learn as we go. Some of us learn more quickly  than others. Some young people have a wise head on young shoulders. Some older people never really grow up. This is all part of life’s rich pattern.

The question to ask ourselves, whoever we are, is what really matters to us, what makes us happy, what keeps us sane? Once we remember who we are and remember to reach out to those we love, and once we enjoy the simple things in life while we can, we will at least find it easier to reconnect to what is good.

But if I cannot change the world, I can bend when the storm appears; Do great things in smaller ways, Dry another’s tears.’

What Does Home Mean to You?

I put a post on Instagram (thehappyscribe) this morning  about home. It seemed popular and so I started thinking about home and what it means to me.

The route to where I live now has been a long and sometimes winding road! ( Had to use that  – The Long and Winding Road is one of my most favourite songs). For someone who’s home and surroundings are one of the most important things in life, moving several times over the last few years has been unsettling and at times traumatic. Several times I have had to pack and unpack my treasured and various possessions, some of which have become more battered and forlorn which each and every move. But with my footsteps still echoing in a bare and empty room, when I started unwrapping a well-loved piece of china or a cosy threadbare throw, the look and feel of these familiar things seemed to bring immediate comfort. As my home has scaled down in size progressively with each and every move, my belongings have had to be pared down accordingly, but some precious things remain, like the beautiful wooden chest decorated with painted birds, and the pretty gothic shaped mirror given to me by my elder son, and the chalkboard with the words ‘I love you mum’, and a picture of a jug of flowers, both drawn and  painted by my  younger son. They go with me everywhere.

Life has twists and turns; we end up in unexpected places. But once we make our mark on a house, wherever it is, it turns into home. Home is where hearts are sure of each other; a place where you know your way in the dark.

‘The house shows the owner’.              George Herbert (1593-1633)

As we approach Autumn, the cosiness and warmth of home seems to be more important than ever; we yearn to brush off the chill of the day, to hasten homeward in the misty, dusky light, turn on the lights and curl up in front of the fire with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.

“In happy homes he saw the light of household fires gleam warm and bright’.

Henry Wandsworth Longfellow 1807-82

We all need a place that we can call home: a place to rest, recharge our batteries and sometimes retreat from the outside world for a while. Whether we are a large family or just one person, our home reveals in all its artefacts ( those precious keepsakes, and the everyday and  ordinary and extraordinary things that surround us) the story of us, and of who we are. We may think that style and inventiveness, as well as hard work and money, are what is needed to transform a house or an apartment, and it’s true, those things help create the space we yearn for. But what really matters is that we creat a place of security, a place of love and warmth, where children and grandchildren can grow and turn to, especially when the outside world seems to be creating stresses and strains.

The place we call home needs to keep peace within its boundaries, welcome within its walls, shelter for its friends, and a cake in the larder.

So when you feel unsettled, have to move house or change your surroundings for whatever reason, remember  that home is where you and your loved ones are – it is not dependent on fancy fixtures and fittings, palaces and mansions, but on you and the people you love, and in the cosy place where you gather together.

‘And a single small cottage, A nest like a dove’s, The only dwelling on earth that she loves’.                             William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

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