Monthly Archives: August 2012
Ever feel like one of those marbles up there? Rolling along, free, full of potential and then you slowly grind to a halt? You’re so close to those other marbles but – You. Can’t. Quite. Reach. Them. Life and the world seemed good and bright when you were all rolling along. You were in it together. Rolling as a team toward the goal. Doesn’t matter what that goal is, the journey was all that mattered and you were overjoyed to be part of it.
You try to speak to them but you can’t be heard. And then you wonder if they’re also speaking but you can’t hear them. You’re listening but you simply don’t hear what they’re saying, at least not at first. Then you see their true colours and it dawns on you what they’re trying to say.
“Hear me. Don’t just blindly listen but understand me.”
You’re so close but far away.
Something clicks and in a single brief moment you’re connected to the marbles around you. The grey mush inside your noggin, that you’d never noticed before, burns away and a gleaming instance of empathy, understanding and true connection opens up. For that minuscule moment you don’t just hear or see or sense the other marbles, you are one and the same. Your fears, doubts, insecurities, dreams, hopes, desires and everything in between are no longer silly notions you keep to yourself. You know those other marbles are the same as you.
They just want to be heard.
They want someone to empathise with them.
Today I had an almost overwhelming sense of empathy thrust into my nut. It was both wonderful and scary at the same time.
I won’t go into details about who, why or how as this all happened in confidence at work. A few people pointed out I looked stressed, worn out, drained etc. I felt a bit out of sorts but couldn’t put my finger on why. The conversations and meetings I’d had felt routine for the most part, with the exception of a few key moments where this strange sense of empathy came over me.
I genuinely understood those marbles.
Not necessarily through words, but body language, tone of voice, eye contact and facial expressions. My colleagues, the marbles, had ground to a halt. I found that even though I was still rolling along, my momentum was slowly dying. I’m all about being positive and I pushed myself to infect others with that energy, but sometimes it’s hard. Like throwing marbles at a surge of lava from a volcano and expecting them to change its course.
I was glad to finally get outside, feel warm sun on my face and the cool breeze.
On the way home I mulled over what had happened.
In the living room I ate a cheese sandwich, played with the dogs and watched Big Bang Theory. And then not long ago I turned on my PC and headed to YouTube – some uplifting music was needed. Instead I found my way to Oasis – Little by Little, and the emotional train journey I’d been on most of the day dropped into a drain and I sat staring at the music video, feeling every snippet of emotional turmoil scrapping for attention behind my eyes.
My emotional train had pulled into the station and finally had its chance to be listened to.
A comment under the video, not some random quip by an Oasis super-fan, but a genuine love of the lyrics in the song:
That song touched DannyMadFerit (funny name, doncha think?) where he hoped it would somehow define parts of his life history. I thought of all the marbles in my life – daily marbles, distant family marbles, chance encounter marbles – and would I, at 60, look back and wonder if all those memories will have given me everything I dreamed of.
I was singing along when Noel Gallagher belted out: “…why am I really here…?”
And that line got stuck in my throat.
Don’t get me wrong, dear blog reader, I wasn’t feeling sad. Nor happy. Just emotional.
Haven’t we all asked ourselves this question? “Why am I really here?”
God I hope so. If we can’t ask this of ourselves and arrive at an answer then what are we doing here at all? Part of me doesn’t know why I’m here. I’m not an astronaut, scientist, politician, singer, celebrity or anyone famous. I figure it’s highly unlikely I’ll have that sort of huge world-wide impact on anyone’s life.
But that’s okay. I’m probably here for some other reason. To make people smile? To help? To heal? To throw some light into a dark moment of someone’s life? To be something good to someone who needs it? To be a friend – not just a mate. To be me and hope others like me being me.
I admit it’s quite a big question to ask yourself on Tuesday afternoon.
Maybe if we ask this of ourselves every once in a while it could help us show a little more empathy toward our fellow marbles.
I’d genuinely like to know why you think you’re really here, dear blog reader.
[Marbles photo by Rebecca Barray http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccabarray/7846949670/in/pool-1989082@N25 ]
Forgive me for making an assumption here, but I’m guessing that when the summer sun is beaming it’s hard to ignore the lure of your own garden, right? If you ignore the other options like shopping, swimming, heading for the beach, hiking (blergh) and watching TV (for those who shun the sun at all costs), the garden is the place to be. The UK has had a pretty mixed bag of weather over the summer but when the clouds aren’t blessing the country with oceans of happy rain, the sun and blue skies are glorious.
Usually I’m the first to grab my towel and sprint for the car when the hot weather slam dunks the country. But last week I figured why bother sitting in traffic jams for hours to spend an afternoon at the beach when I can relax in the back garden and enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet?
Crackin’ plan, right dear blog reader?
Um. Well. Sort of. In theory.
I’m not that into flaunting my flesh under the baking rays of the sun. I don’t enjoy it. Getting my skin burnt to a crisp isn’t my idea of fun. But I do like being outdoors, albeit in the shade. So I gathered my laptop, a cool drink, shorts and t-shirt, and eased into a chair at the table in our back garden. I hadn’t done any writing for a week and was feeling the itch to plough up the words of my current edit.
Once settled I supped my cool beverage, flexed my fingers, scrolled to the right spot in my novel (took a photo) and dived right in. And for a time things were good. In the distance an ice-cream van twinkled its music. A few dogs barked in neighbouring gardens, though not too much or for too long, thankfully. The heat and humidity tend to suppress even the most eager of dogs. Funny how it doesn’t have the same effect on neighbours children laughing.
Sigh. I don’t mind them laughing. Hey, I was a kid once.
I just don’t remember laughing for 5 hours straight. Nothing was ever that funny.
A bit of background noise is acceptable. Isn’t it?
It’s the price to pay for enjoying an afternoon of writing in the sun. I cracked on until next doors burglar alarm started to sing. That’s okay. It only goes off for about 10 seconds. Every couple of hours. They obviously have a problem with their wiring as it goes off like that 24/7. We got used to it after the first few days. Not long after that someone next door thought it would be a good idea to ruin the almost silence with a lawn mower. Right up against the fence.
With a grimace I concentrated on my writing.
Our other neighbours, on the other side, lead an active life. Always coming and going. Cars crunching on the stones out back. Engines revving. Doors slamming. Gates creaking. Noise. Laughter. Dogs bark when they hear a car pulling in Our dogs, happy to hear another dog bark, also start barking. But that’s okay too. Like the burglar alarm the happy exchange of barks is over pretty quick, and other than a final huff from little Ben (you can just see him behind my glass of coke in the photo) the excitement is over for a while.
I block out the noise. Words. Concentrate on the words. They mean something. Must edit those words.
And then my phone beeps. I’d forgotten to put it on silent. I have a serious dislike for phones when I’m writing. I hit the cancel button and switch it off. No more derailments from you Mr Nokia. Thank you very much. A few seconds later the land line squawks. I’m grateful the handset is inside the house, but the “answer me answer me answer me” ring tone makes me grate my teeth.
Yes! Thank God for answering machines.
I put my fingers in my ears so I don’t hear the message. From inside the house someone calls out that the message was for me, something about my sister, something about my phone being turned off, meeting up for lunch, when and where and can I call her back…something, something. I’ll call her later. She can wait. Lunch is tomorrow and that’s a million years away.
Sunshine and writing. That’s what I’m there for.
The next derailment comes when I’m asked if I want a drink.
Hands poised above the keyboard.
No thanks. Got one. Bye then.
Another question – bacon sandwich?
Yes please. Bye then.
Have I got any sunblock on?
Then don’t you think you should put some on?
Fine. Sunblock applied.
Okay then. Thank you. Bye bye then.
I’ve lost my place. Just as I pick it up another car rolls into the driveway. Crunching the stones. Doors slam. Dogs bark. Burglar alarm whines. Kids are still laughing. I want to climb the fence and ask them, sincerely, what the hell is so funny? But I’m not a grumpy old man, not yet, but soon. Then they’ll all be sorry. I take a deep breath. Peace and quiet. Sunshine and writing. That’s what it’s all about.
Bacon sandwich arrives. I guess I could take a break from doing nothing for an hour and a half. I munch my sandwich. It seems everyone else in the house wants to eat outside too. We chat. Laugh. Talk about going to the beach tomorrow. I shrug. I kinda wanted to get through some editing that weekend as I’d been putting it off. I’ll skip it, thanks.
The bacon brigade don’t leave. They sit and chat. I open my netbook and stare at the words. My enthusiasm has wilted somewhat but I push myself to revive it and tap away as the chatter bounces around the table. I can do it. I can block it all out no problem. Hey, this is working.
Burglar alarm whines.
Dogs bark, huff, howl and grunt.
Children laugh like hyenas.
An angry bee tries to invade my ear.
Someone starts sawing wood. Seriously! It’s the hottest day of the year and one of the neighbours thinks now is the time to start sawing random chunks of wood. And then the hammer comes out. Clonk. Clonk. Bang. Clonk. Bang. Bang. Next the drill. Whiiiiirrrrrr. WHIIIIIRRRRRRR!
I stifle an irritated smile.
I feel like I’ve been thrown into a Bugs Bunny cartoon, dressed in a conductors suit, tapping my baton against the stand ready to conduct the orchestra of neighbourhood noise.
One and two and one, two, three, four! Clash, bang, wallop, smash, hiss, woof, clonk, hum, whine , chatter – rinse and repeat until time comes to an end. I imagine the usual suspects from Loony Tunes holding instruments, but instead of playing them with style and grace, they’re bashing them on their heads or hitting each other with goofy smiles and dazed little birds swimming around their heads.
I’d been sat in the garden for two hours and as far as I can remember I’d managed to edit half a dozen lines and write a bunch of words that didn’t make any sense. Stephen King once said: “Write with the door closed, edit with the door open.” I’d like to add to that: “And never write in your back garden on a sunny day because the noise will drive you batshit crazy.”
Funny thing is we live out in the country. It’s a country village. Corn fields. Wide open spaces. Sunsets like you wouldn’t believe. Sat in the back garden on the hottest day of the year you’d think some sort of dimensional rift had opened up and sucked the entire street into the middle of a busy city.
With the patience of a monk I slowly closed the lid on my netbook.
I wanted peace and quiet, sunshine and words.
Words can wait.
I called my sister. Played with the dogs. Enjoyed the sunshine and good company.
Turns out that all those background noises fade away when you’re having fun.
English Summers are fickle and you have to grab the good times when you can.
Why waste them?
How’s that for a glorious deep blue summer sun sky?
Took this on Saturday 18th August, the hottest day of 2012, 32 degrees.
And no, it hasn’t been altered or mucked about with in Photoshop.
The sky really was that blue!
Hey there dear blog reader!
I won’t keep you long. I just wanted to share a particularly uplifting and inspirational video with you. I stumbled across this on YouTube on a day when I was feeling a bit down and kinda nothing. I had the day off work so I got up late, pottered about, poked around in the kitchen, watched insanely boring day time TV and wasted most of the day doing a lot of nothing.
By the time I’d gathered enough energy to sit and write, my basket of enthusiasm was empty. I sat and stared at the screen, checked Facebook, didn’t reply to any emails and clicked on the black hole that is YouTube, where time is sucked away from everyone.
Slumped in my chair, eyes half closed, wondering if it was time for dinner, I clicked a link that just said “Zero.” It said it was 12 minutes long so just enough of a time filler before I thought about cooking some tasty food – then maybe more TV.
I’m so glad I clicked it!
Zero is a fantastic short movie of how even the lowliest person in life can achieve more than nothing after being labelled as nothing. It was enough to lift me out of my slump and that evening I spent a few wonderful hours writing and editing with a smile on my face.
I heartily encourage you to watch this video right to the end. Trust me, it’s inspirational, uplifting, surprising, and many other positive -ings.