Sunday, July 10, 2011

The best of days and the worst of days

Is this the best of days or the worst of days to write a blog? Why is the third anniversary of my wife's death such a milestone in my continuing life? It is, one way or another, and I must accept that life does continue, in fits and starts, forwards and then backwards, stalling for some indeterminate time and then picking up the pace, towards another place.

I just don't know where that place is. Last night I had decided that today, like the two anniversaries that have gone before, would be a quiet day; a day of thought, recollection, memories, and probably some sadness. It is also a day of laundry, cooking, eating, washing up – just like yesterday and probably tomorrow. Some things don't change. Despite the body blows of life, the mundane lifts its head and pressing its nose through the veil, reasserts itself as the daily process. For some reason, getting the satellite box to reset and actually transmit the BBC coverage of the British Grand Prix seems to be a priority. I remember the Chinese proverb: before Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

When it is impossible to answer the question “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”, dealing with the mundane and winning a few easy battles that grease the wheels of every day existence seems a worthwhile exercise. If the Big Stuff is too Big, then deal with the Small Stuff – but at least deal with Something. I tell myself that Small Stuff needs work too, and some work today is better than sitting around waiting for the day to end. At least with Addressing the Small Stuff I can still be in the moment rather than being lost in the past, wishing it were different, or frozen in time in anticipation of a future that has yet to reveal itself. Being busy is a good thing.

Writing is busy; it demands attention, some focus of thought, reading and re-reading what has been written; constant work to correct the bad typing and fix the spelling errors. If writing is to be read then it needs to be at least of a reasonable standard – at least coherent and grammatically acceptable. Anarchy is just a few small steps beyond bad grammar.

A few days ago a dear friend asked me for whom I was writing? And I had no ready answer at that time. Now I am sure that I am writing for myself; it is a selfish act of business. An act that could just as easily be achieved by writing my piece and storing it safely on some hard drive, rather than expose it to the withering public eye. But the reality is that the withering pubic eye is just a few friendly people who are already somewhat predisposed to some feelings of empathy and understanding – not that much risk at the end of the day. So I write for myself – and maybe my children. Maybe one day an absentminded Google search will reveal the existence of this blog and one or the other of them will follow it to the source and read a little, here and there. That would certainly be more than my parents left for me.

That is not said with bitterness or even regret. Surely it is possible to leave our children with an handbook for life, however short and concise that may be: a sense of right and wrong, driven by a value system that will stand the test of societal change; a sense of purpose in direction, driven by passion and the pursuit of happiness rather than the acquisition of useless goods and chattels; and finally the willingness to risk the exchange of love. Added together they represent for me a path to being more than I might have expected, a few steps towards that elusive goal of “self realization”.

But if I regret that I was not given such a handbook then I have to remember that my parents were engaged in survival: firstly through the ravages of war and then through the economic hardships of the fifties – keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table. I have many personal memories of those difficult times, when I was a very small child, but I can still remember the bread and dripping and the sitting quietly on the front stairs with my Mother as we waited for the rent man to pass us by. As a child, it all seemed very normal; as an adult, I can look back and recognize how very hard it was. Hindsight changes the perspective.

Even now, looking back, as I remember the last days with Marianne, I know there are things that we said and did not say. Such an illness is totally consuming; there is little time to consider what thoughts to share with family or friends. The act of clinging to life demands every ounce of effort – there is little opportunity to sit back and consider what thoughts to share with those around one. I am so profoundly grateful during those few days for every word shared, every hand held, every kiss given and received; and at the same time so profoundly regretful that those days were so short.

As each year goes by I remind myself to share my thoughts with those around me while I still can think beyond the basic needs of survival. Now is the time, while I am still in good health and vigour, to minimize my needs, to reduce my dependency on those cursed goods and chattels, to accept a need for a certain amount of selfishness – to read that book, follow that thought, and even write that blog.

So I expect my thoughts to wander over the months and years ahead, and I will write what concerns me on a given day. Perhaps I should start to include a few critical tag words for that future Google search. I wonder what they should be?


  1. Tag words to consider: loss, profound sadness, emptiness, cruelty of death, and how to survive it. I agree: we all have to go on with the banalities of life: cooking, cleaning, laundry, and of course, working to keep the lights on and fund our children's educations. Yet I do stop and think about Marianne, more than anyone knows. Time has not healed the hurt. I no more understand her death today than I did three years ago.
    Perhaps blogging helps one get out the thoughts that need to be expressed, thoughts that many are not comfortable hearing or just are at a loss to know how to respond. But they need to be said, and I'm glad you did.
    Love to you and David and Christian and to all who love Marianne! Louise

  2. Your blog profoundly affected me. I finished reading it on the laptop at the front desk at the Bikram Yoga Reston studio. When finished, I looked up and saw across from me one of the brown seats by the entrance door where Marianne would rest after a grueling class. I had to pause and say... has it really been 3 years already? She was a wonderful person and certainly not forgotten by me.

    Attaining cosmic consciousness can be elusive and easy at the same time. So too can living in the present moment. Your blog is an eloquent reminder of that need to share and be heard and be loved... whether it be with oneself or with others.

    Hope you are well and that you continue to thrive. Meanwhile, I'll think of you as I chop wood and carry water today. Life goes on...

    From the universe we call cyberspace,