Monthly Archives: June 2012

People- and the way they touch our hearts and minds….

Meeting someone pivotal in your life is often not greeted by cymbals and drum rolls. Sometimes they just slip in unnoticed and non-assuming, yet they can subliminally change how we think and act in quiet and unobtrusive ways. People like this are like jewels. Colorful treasure in a sometimes grey, monochrome world that can make us sit up and take notice of the beauty and sparkle that is inherent in life.

I met a man twelve years ago who changed me, fundamentally and quietly without his knowing. We met weekly and exchanged thoughts, philosophies, visions and ideas. He was older than I was and had a broader life experience and education than I had at the time. He spoke to and listened to me, and encouraged me to believe in my aspirations, beliefs and hopes. He supported me as I took the first tentative steps to thinking beyond the person that I was at the time, and he shaded my dreams with pencils of colour and substance.

Looking back, I recognise that I was at a crossroads in my life. My children were in their late teens and were on their own paths of discovery. My job at the time was well paid but I hated it. My husband had his career and was working hard at it. I was approaching my 40’s and I truly didn’t know who I was or where I going to. My life was predictable and mostly enjoyable, but it was lacking something that I couldn’t articulate or name.

This man encouraged me to read the works of great philosophers and writers, and to think deeply about the things that produced joy and happiness for me. He believed in the power of silence and self-reflection and taught me not to feel afraid in the quiet of my mind. Through our weekly discussions we explored what the universe had to offer us as humans and what we could give back.

We debated and argued back and forth about what was meaningful and relevant in a world gone mad with consumerism and greed. We agreed that it was people and how they felt that mattered most when it came to actual living.

I looked forward to our meetings and I was rarely disappointed. We were in a work environment so not all the time was spent chatting, but I loved having time out with this wonderful man learning something new in almost every encounter. He made me think in a way that I had never done before.

Trying to help my husband and children understand the monumental shift that was occurring inside me was difficult, as I was learning to think, to do things differently, and to reflect on where I was on my life’s map. I was also menopausal at the time which may have contributed to their lack of engagement with me as they all thought I was going nuts anyway. My new “Airy Fairy” way of thinking and my constant quoting of this man’s viewpoints made them laugh and dismiss me a lot, although they were never deliberately unkind. They just didn’t get what I was getting.

They didn’t understand the effect that this man was having on my consciousness. Although they listened to me, they didn’t really hear me or understand my new way of thinking. I knew that he did and I simply loved him for it.

I eventually emerged from the menopause mentally intact (although my family may disagree on this issue) and began to slowly build a new individual way of being, hugely influenced by this gentle man.

My thoughts and practices are different now and have been since I knew him. His gentleness continues to affect me in how I view the world and his wisdom will never be forgotten.

I do not see him now and have not for many years. Our paths diverged and we are not in contact. He has absolutely no idea how he influenced and changed my life.

I remember him with fondness, thankfulness and a deep and abiding love. He provided me with a space that allowed me to express my feelings, my doubts, worries and dreams. He listened to me and never judged me. He encouraged me to be quiet in myself and to appreciate the silence that lies within us all. He taught me to accept people with all their frailties and vulnerabilities and to recognise that I have those feelings too.

He has been a kind of guru for me in how I live my life although he would hate to have that title. He believed in the sharing of life’s philosophies, education and knowledge, with the implicit acknowledgement that we have no ownership of them as they were never ours in the first place. I learnt from him that wisdom, kindness and understanding that is passed on is the greatest gift that we as humans can share.

Destiny can teach us about people and the unconsciousness power they have to individually shape our lives.

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Date night for older people….

Tonight was “Date Night” with my hubby. We agreed some time ago to meet in the sitting room of our home every Wednesday night- share a sofa – have a glass of wine (for me) & a beer (for him) while viewing something on the TV that was agreed by both of us in advance. It could be a movie, a pre-recorded programme or a DVD. We have such opposite tastes in books, TV, movies and culture- that we had to find a place and time for common ground. “Date night” was born although this concept is largely a youthful one.

Tonight we watched the movie “The best exotic Marigold Hotel”. It’s a Hollywood take on the issue of old age and retirement and the attempts of a group of people to escape the predictability and depression of being retired and aged in the UK.

It was a yarn located in India, directed by the talented John Madden, and it featured exotic locations, humour, pathos and clichés to beat the band. We sat back in the comfort of our living room- on our shared sofa and watched this movie about the depiction of the unsexiness and uselessness of being old.

The movie featured character actors of a certain age and their performances were finely scripted. Despite the “feel good factor” and the “happily ever after” scenario depicted in this movie I was left feeling a bit dispirited and dejected about the whole Hollywood notion of aging and how it is handled. I didn’t like it. It was too full of clichés, Viagra and the Kama Sutra etc…

It did leave me thinking about my own life though, and about where it is going. I too have reached that particular age where I no longer feel youthful and full of vigour as I have done for most of my life.

The world is full of young energetic creative people, and I felt a part of that world for so long. Age creeps up on us when we are least expecting it and although I have lived a full and largely happy life, I am feeling the encroachment of older age and am acutely aware that suddenly I am outside a life that I was once at the centre of.

This is manifest in the surveys that I have been doing for years on line. Suddenly I am in the “over 50’s group”. I may still feel that I am younger in my head and heart with my habits and ideas, but according to the marketing people who make their living predicting trends, I am not even asked the same questions that younger people are asked. A pal of mine who does the same surveys is 10 years younger than I am and is offered many more surveys even though our demographics are very similar. Age is the only thing that separates us.

Many years ago when I was 16 years of age during the 1970’s I fancied a busker who played in the Dandelion Market in Dublin. Dusty was his name. He sang like Bob Dylan and had the longest legs poured into the tightest Levis. He was simply gorgeous. I hung around that market like a love struck teenager all through the summers of ’75 & ’76 listening to him, hoping that he would suddenly notice me and we would fall in love and make music forever…. (I know- It was teenage fantasy stuff- but I had a vivid imagination and a steadfast belief that I was irresistible!)

Anyway….. One Sunday afternoon my maternal grandmother who was in her 60’s at the time came for dinner to our house and afterwards we took the bus into the city for the afternoon. We were just rambling around the streets as shops didn’t open in those days so the city was quiet. I surreptitiously directed her towards the Dandelion Market but Dusty wasn’t there… We wandered around inside the market for an hour or two and eventually headed down Grafton Street to catch our bus home.

I clearly remember the moment I saw “him” walking up the street towards us… I must have made a sound like a gasp or a sigh, for suddenly my grandmother said “would you have a look at that lad- isn’t he something”.

I remember being horrified by that note of lust or admiration that I heard in her voice and I (unforgivingly) rounded on her and replied “What do you mean? How can you say that? You are an old lady”!

This was a pivotal moment in my life’s history and I have told this story hundreds of times. My wonderful gran, Sis Keogh grabbed me by the shoulders in the middle of Grafton Street as I shuddered with horror at her noticing MY Dusty….and she said to me….. “I may be an old lady on the outside- but inside this body I am still 18 years of age and I think he is GORGEOUS”.

We talked the whole way home on the bus and we had the most honest conversation about attraction and sex that I could NEVER have with her daughter- my mother. I didn’t realise at that youthful age that “inside” we don’t grow old, and I gained a valuable insight that day that I have never forgotten.

Watching that movie tonight left me feeling that despite the politically correct notion that people should not be discriminated against by age, stereotypical movies like this actually reinforce ageism and have disguised it as a “feel good movie”. I believe that it actually adds to generalizations about older people and I won’t be recommending it on.

Getting older brings many things up for me. Amongst them is an acceptance of where I’m at on life’s stage, confidence in what I believe in, and an acknowledgment that while I may not be full of life, vigour and sexiness- I am nonetheless a worthwhile person who the marketers are seriously underestimating if they think that I have no opinion.

I am outspoken, passionate and articulate. I say what I want to say, but I always hope to be sensitive and aware of other people’s feelings and beliefs. Age does not hold me back. In fact it allows me the confidence of life’s experience to be more vocal and determined to have the voice that was largely silent when I was younger.

Growing older may not be all that and a bag o’ chips in the youth driven society that we currently live in, but I appreciate the freedom and confidence that I have now that was so lacking in my younger days. I always have my dear Gran and her wise words in my head as a reminder to me that getting old is only on the outside, and that inside I am still and always will be eighteen years of age.

Destiny can be in knowing where you are on life’s map and recoginising the things that are relevant and meaningful to you.

Care and kindness in unexpected places

According to all the current reports in the newspaper and on the TV, our Irish National Health Service is in shambles. There are stories featured almost every day about the heartbreak and suffering that vulnerable people have to endure at a time when they need care the most. There seems to be little praise for the services and for every bad story that is heard, there are another five waiting in the wings for their day in the spotlight.

I realise that no newspaper ever refused ink, and that good news rarely makes the front page, but I am heartened by my own recent experience with the Health Service and particularly with St James Hospital in Dublin where my mother is currently a patient.

I brought my mam (who is also terminally ill) to the A & E department of James Street hospital in Dublin late on Monday night June 18th on the advice of her GP. Her condition didn’t appear to relate to her current illness, but her GP quite rightly didn’t want to take any chances. From the waiting room she was triaged within five minutes and was admitted almost immediately. The care and attention that she received during the next few hours was of an exceptionally high standard, and was in contrast to previously heard stories about this particular department.

Despite being overcrowded with patients on trollies, there was one cubicle that was constantly kept empty during the night. Trollies were moved about by the staff with the dexterity of chess pieces as doctors came and consulted with, and diagnosed their patients. Each patient was wheeled into this empty cubicle in order to have complete privacy as doctors examined them. When the consultation was over, they were wheeled back out again leaving the cubicle ready for the next patient.

All this movement/ shifting/ wheeling/ tugging/pushing was carried out by the staff with constant cheerfulness and maximum efficiency. My mother was wheeled into that cubicle three times during the hours that we were there before she was eventually transferred to a ward. Being the beneficiaries of such a high level of privacy and dignity in the middle of a hustling busy A & E dept. was so welcome and so totally unexpected given the horrific experiences of other patients that are constantly referred to by the media. The current health service is hugely criticised most of the time- but my mother’s recent experience was one to be highly commended.

The unit that she is still on is staffed by dedicated people who look after her with diligent care, kindness and professionalism. Her every need is catered for and we are so lucky that her care team are so thorough in their work and expertise.

Since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, the care and attention that my mother has received from the medical staff in St James Hospital has been nothing short of excellent. Her treatments and appointments run like clockwork, and she has always been present at the heart of every consultation and meeting about her illness.

Kindness, affection and good humour are the added bonuses that the staff provide, and my mother and the rest of my family are so grateful that she is being looked after with such compassion, thoughtfulness and consideration.

I have nothing but praise for all the health care professionals that surround us at the moment as my mother struggles to remain upbeat and as well as she can be given her fragile state. I have no doubt that while the Health Service in general is struggling and needs reform, St James Hospital as a centre of excellence is currently demonstrating how best practice can actually work as my mother and consequently the rest of our family are the recipients of this care.

Destiny can lie in the hands and hearts of unexpected people who come into our lives when they are needed the most.