Sunday, November 29, 2015

That sinking feeling ...

... when you are first told that one of your children has had a car accident, is only slightly tempered by the fact that it is their own voice that is breaking the news. Even so, it is another reminder of how tenuous our grip on life actually is - we like to pretend that life can be 'managed', that we can sanitise it from interruption - accidental or otherwise; that in short we can be 'safe'. It's a myth. Living is risky, sometimes dangerous. Even something like a sightseeing helicopter flight over a glacier can never be totally 'safe' (one crashed earlier this week).

Anyway, we got the call and a couple of anxious hours later child walks through the door looking a bit worse for wear, but still standing, still walking. Thank God.

Annette and I drive to the crash site to secure anything that may have been left in the car, and we find an unrepairable wreck. A list of things to be thankful for quickly begins to emerge:

  • We are thankful that he was able to walk away from the mess and wasn't carried.
  • Thankful that it wasn't the cast iron power pole that brought the car to a halt.
  • Thankful that in crossing the road, he missed the oncoming traffic and that no one else was hit or hurt.
  • Thankful that falling asleep at the wheel wasn't the result of hard partying, but from working 16 of the last 24 hours as a hospital nurse. 
  • Strangely, I can't even feel mildly upset about the loss of the car; just thankful that it did its job of holding together well enough to protect the driver. It was a good car.

Life is very precious, abundant in its generality but unique in its individuality. There are no guarantees - every day is a gamble; a new hand of cards. Sometimes the only way to beat the odds is by knowing when to fold - please don't drive tired.

Friday, November 6, 2015


When I was first told that I could expect my life to be shorter than I had anticipated, my reaction was to think about how I could cram in all the things I still wanted to do with my life - before it was too late. Now, five years on, I have come to realise that this 'cram in as much as possible' attitude is quite wrong. Life is much too short to rush through it.

It's a quality versus quantity thing; yes, I can cram all this stuff in, but does that make my remaining years better? Short answer; "no". Slightly longer answer, "no, it just makes them busier". Life really is too short to rush - even without a deadline. Rushing causes us to miss so much of what is happening; we need to pause, mid-stride, to feel the moment, to enjoy the act of moving and sense the wonder of being alive. And, yes, to us 'busy doing stuff' people, that is totally counter-intuitive.

Last evening I dawdled on the way home from the office. There was no other traffic, the sun was shining and the beauty of the countryside that I pass through several times a week was calling for my attention. I cruised the road between the trees, enjoying the dappled sunlight, looked up at the ever-changing parade of lumpy green hills on my right and the endless vistas across the green of the Canterbury plains on my left. I rode the switchback road as though it were a fairground rollercoaster experienced in slow-motion. I thought it wonderful, I thought it beautiful, for truly it was both of those things, and I wondered at the good fortune that had brought me here and has allowed me to call this place 'home' for over twenty years.

This morning, I met an elderly, one-eyed lady. She spoke about her long-dead husband, and how she worked the farm on her own when he had gone. She told me about the kingfisher that lived up the track and the birds that come to her garden when she is hanging out her washing. She told me how she speaks to them and how she is sure that they have started to mimic her voice. "I'm probably a bit daft", she said. That's when I realised that I was speaking with someone who had learned to live in the 'in between' spaces of life. She was HAPPY in a way that many of us seek and fail to find.

These gems of happiness are found in the in-between, mid-stride, spaces. They are hidden beneath the surface, they are the things we miss when we are in a hurry. Life is much too short to rush; dawdle some, discover some of the 'happy' bits of life.