Category Archives: Life Challenges

Thought for today

He who asks a question may be a fool for five minutes

He who asks no questions may be a fool for life

– Chinese or possibly Japanese proverb

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Change brings questions…

On a previous blog entry, I was asked some interesting questions, and promised to try to answer them sometime. I think that time is now! So here goes:

What motivates people to change? 
I think there are probably a lot of reasons why you might want to change. For me, it was a slow realisation that the way I was spending my life was not making me happy or content. I was simply existing, going through the motions of living. I was stuck in a rut and I didn’t like it, and I realised that action was needed to get out of that rut. And importantly, I was the only one who could take that action – my happiness was (and is) my responsibility.

Can you change on your own or do you need the help of others? 
In my opinion, you are the only one who can actually change anything but – and I think this varies from person to person – you may find it helpful to have someone to talk to. Verbalising your thoughts and feelings – even just getting them down as words – can help clarify things in your head, and help you to prioritise your actions. You may not choose to hit “send” on the email or text you’ve written, or you may be walking in woods and just talking to the trees, but getting what’s in your head outside your body somehow is probably something that most of us would find helpful – it certainly worked for me.

Why do you think some people change and others apparently don’t? 
Making big changes takes a huge amount of commitment – it’s not something that you can do in half measures. Once you’re started on the road to change then very often there’s no going back. As with other aspects of life, there’s a fear of the unknown, a level of comfort in what you have and what you know. For example, you may be turning your life completely upside down, which will uproot everything and leave you having to make new friends in a new place: that’s a scary place to be when you’re young and full of energy, but when you get to my age it can have a paralysing effect and prevent you making the changes you want or need. Again, it’s down to you – what do you want most, what will make you happy, or are you prepared to stick with what you have?

Is there anything “spiritual” in your discoveries or has gaining knowledge of (for example) topics like domestic abuse been your biggest learning curve? 
I think it’s all been spiritual to some extent, but I’m not sure if that’s down to what I’ve done or a burgeoning awareness of the scary otherworld which I’m learning about. Since making the decision to change, I’ve certainly felt a lightening of my spirit, a sort of emotional release, and there’s definitely a reduction in the stress I feel. I’ve had a number of people tell me since then how much happier I seem, how much better I look, and I take that as affirmation (if any were needed) that my decisions were the right ones.

I’ve always thought that I’m not a particularly deep thinker, but finding out about things like domestic abuse, modern slavery etc – and the fact that it’s going on around me, involving people I know – is widening my horizons and making me think about these things in more detail. When I have spare moments I find myself thinking more about these things and I feel that I’m evolving into a more conscious, compassionate human being – and that’s actually making me feel happier. Of course, I’m not happy that people are having to suffer these things, and one of the things I’ve resolved to do as part of my new life is to try to help if I can – I just need to work out how to do that.

Was the change (eg the decision to eat differently) hard or easy for you? 
I think most of us know what is right and wrong about aspects of our lives. Some things can be easy to change – eating better just meant being more prepared, more organised, and making more effort rather than taking the easy way out ie ready meals and takeaways. It also helped that I had a new partner who was also committed to those ideals and so we support each other in this respect. 

Deciding to end a 25 year marriage, and nearly 30 years as a couple, was very difficult. I obviously had to think long and hard about it, about the pros and cons of such a drastic step. In the end, and after months of soul searching, I worked out that in order for me to be truly happy I had to make the change. As I mentioned above, this was one of the decisions which, once made, meant there was no way back and the life I knew would be gone forever.

What might motivate you to change again? 
I think that I’m still changing, still becoming the person I wanted to be. I’ve taken a few steps, and am definitely on the road to a more fulfilled, happy life. And I think that’s probably going to be an ongoing thing, for the rest of my days. I’m responsible for the changes in my head, in how I treat others – but I believe that there are things I can do which may help others. One of the reasons for uprooting my life was because I didn’t feel that I was helping anyone other than myself. I now have the opportunity to start making a difference to those who need my help, and I’m determined to do that. So I think the process of change will never finish, now it’s started, because I don’t think I’ll fully attain that goal. But I think I’ll be a happier person for trying to get there. 

Would you change anything about the change?
No, I don’t think so. It had to happen when it did because I needed all my previous life experiences to help me make the decisions I did. It was inevitable that it would cause hurt and upset for some, for a short while at least, but in the long run I think it’s one of the most positive, liberating things I’ve ever done. I hope that those who were hurt are able to move on and find their own true happiness, because I think that they were also unhappy in their lives and are now able to do the things they need to without me holding them back. But I’m glad that I made the decisions I did, and am happier than ever. 

Change happens from within, right?

Over the past few months I’ve had a massive change in lifestyle. I’ve reduced the amount of alcohol I drink significantly. I’ve stopped eating ready meals, in favour of home cooked food or meals in cafes and restaurants. I’ve even managed to start getting 7 or 8 hours sleep a night, sometimes more, for the first time in years. And that’s all been brilliant, because I feel healthier and fitter and have lost a bit of weight. I need to do more, and need to do some exercise, but it’s a good start.

I’ve also stopped being quite such a couch potato. I don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to, have cancelled my subscription to Sky Movies, and spend my time reading or talking to people instead. Weekends have become a hive of activity instead of the usual struggle to catch up on sleep from the week before. Joining the National Trust and English Heritage has opened up a whole new world of places to see, all for the cost of some fuel to get there. I’ve found I’m learning about all sorts of things, from how catholic priests were hidden in the Middle Ages at Oxborough Hall to how German POWs were used as labour at Waddesdon Manor (some of them not leaving till the end of 1919, well after the end of the war). Trips to Bletchley Park, the National Space Centre and the Imperial War Museum in Duxford have refreshed and reignited by passions for space and air travel, for the engineering involved, for codes and cyphers. I had stagnated in life and that was making me tired, stressed, irritable and grouchy. Outwardly, my sense of humour got me through but hid a multitude of issues.

Talking to remarkable people who do so much for their communities, selflessly helping those worse off than themselves, has opened my eyes to some extent to the extreme hardship some people face, from unemployment and poverty, to substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, people trafficking and all sorts of other things. Just living is incredibly tough for a lot of people, and in many cases it’s through no fault of their own. For those of us who have had a cosy, uncomplicated life, we can never fully understand or appreciate how lucky we are, or what others would give to have the lives we do. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s tough and emotional, but I think you’ll be a more complete and compassionate person. I’m trying to do just that and I think I’m getting there slowly.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you find yourself in a rut, there’s only one person that can get you out of it. Make the effort, learn something, see something new, do something different: it’ll be hard at first, but the rewards are just awesome.

What’s another year?

Yesterday was yet another birthday for me. My age doesn’t have a 0 at the end, but it’s not far off. As birthdays sometimes do, this one set me thinking. What has changed, or what have I done to effect change, in the last year? The answer is – and this is unusual for me – a massive amount of change. (In no particular order) I’ve visited Auschwitz, crossed the Atlantic for the first time, had a mud bath in a volcano, walked with wolves, ended a 25 year marriage, recorded in a “proper” studio and, more recently, rediscovered the joys of life and felt rejuvenated. And that all feels like just the tip of the iceberg.

For all those events, perhaps the biggest change has been within me. Seeing in excess of 800 000 poppies at the Tower of London on a rainy November evening in London, contrasting that with the thought that double that number of people died in Auschwitz (that visit was on a searing hot July day). You can’t see those things and not wonder what life is all about, what’s it for? I’ve developed an aversion for tall chimneys, which now unsettle me almost as much as graveyards do.

I’ve also become aware of the “hidden” world we live in. I say “hidden”, but it’s more one I was relatively unaware of because I’ve been pretty privileged in my upbringing and life experiences and that I’ve not (knowingly) come into contact with it. That “hidden” world is one where domestic violence, rape, discrimination and intolerance are a fact of daily life for a large number of people. That can’t be right, can it? In a modern society, in the 21st century, why is this still happening? I’m hoping that if more of us speak out against such practices, the more awareness is raised so that people who, like me, lived in their own little protective bubbles, then change can and will happen. I know it’s not easy, but as the proverb goes, even a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. I’m determined to do what I can, but what are you going to do?

On a more positive note, I’ve started to enjoy days out seeing different things, with new experiences. A water mill that appeared in the Domesday Book, a fortified medieval home complete with moat and priest hole (persecution again), the National Space Centre, Bletchley Park, the Imperial War Museum at Duxford – they’ve all taught me new things and given me more appreciation of the struggles of those who have gone before us, as well as made me value what I have and who I share it with. It’s a validation of life, that for all the dark things that go on, there’s also goodness and light.

This may sound strange, but standing underneath a Vulcan bomber, or within touching distance of a Lancaster and a Spitfire yesterday, made me very emotional. To be awestruck at the size and majesty of those instruments of death and, ultimately, catalysts for freedom, was incredible. Every component, from the smallest screw and rivet, had a part to play in enabling the whole to function correctly. Isn’t that the same as the parts we can play in combating the hidden world I mentioned above?

Definitely NOTGUILTY – a brave woman facing up to a problem in society

I assume that many people have by now heard the story of Ione Wells, an Oxford student who was sexually assaulted in her home street in North London. She chose to waive her right of anonymity and wrote an open letter to her attacker. I’m not going to go into detail, but if you want to read more then details can be found here: http://www.cherwell.org/lifestyle/features/2015/04/24/not-guilty-a-letter-to-my-assaulter

What struck me was how brave this lady was in confronting what had happened to her and speaking out about it.  She’s right, she has nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Her attacker is the one with the problem. Ione Wells should be applauded for taking a stand, she is indeed #notguilty. 

It set me wondering, why does this sort of behaviour continue in “modern Britain” and in other countries throughout the world?  We’re in the 21st Century, and yet some men still think it’s ok to assault women, to grab them, to beat them, to rape them.  I’m not just talking about sexual assault, but also domestic violence.  Think of Jimmy Saville and all the revelations that keep cropping up about him and his contemporaries – how could that be allowed to happen, and to continue to happen, for so long? We may not be able to influence people in other countries, but it seems to me that there’s a lot of work to be done here in the UK before we try to solve problems like this elsewhere.

Though hardly original, isn’t it time we concentrated first on teaching the children of today not to rape, assault or beat others, before teaching them how not to become victims?  Our collective problem is that we don’t do enough about stopping perpetrators from doing wrong, and try to put some of the responsibility on the victims because “they asked for it” or whatever nonsense excuse is flavour of the month. No one ever “asks for it”, and isn’t it time that society stood up on the side of the victims rather than tolerate the perpetrators?