I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.
It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.
Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.
Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”
Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.
I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.
Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”
I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.
My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.
Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.
Image: Author’s own
Posted in Spirituality
Tagged appreciation, attitude, beauty, brainwashing, communication, compassion, death, drop, energy, family, friends, future, generosity, gift, gratitude, grief, heart, heartbreak, help, holidays, human beings, humanity, impermanence, inspiration, instagram, letting go, life, living, love, loveability, loved ones, material, mitch albom, morrie schwartz, nature, ocean, past, peace, people, photos, physical, present, robert holden, rumi, sadness, sharing, shift, silence, smartphone, society, spain, spiritual, spirituality, stillness, tears, thinking, thoughts, time, togetherness, truth, tuesdays with morrie, understanding, universe, values, vulnerability, waves, whole
Right about now, people are starting to complain about the cold weather and shorter daylight hours. “Oo, it’s getting wintry,” they’ll say as they shiver and rub their hands together forcefully. Some of us have not so happy memories of low moods during the long, dark season. Spring and summer are like autumn and winter’s bubblier, more popular cousins; the ones we long to be around and can’t wait to see. However, autumn and winter do have their own unique, positive attributes. Here are some tips for surviving (and enjoying) this time of year:
- Follow in nature’s fashion footsteps and treat yourself to some autumn-coloured accessories.
- Wrap yourself in cute woolies and go outside. Who needs makeup when you’ve got fresh air to blush your cheeks and brighten your eyes?
- Walk through a park or by the water and watch the leaves dance.
- The most important thing is to continue getting exercise and daylight so, if it’s raining, pull on the waterproofs and connect with nature.
- Take a good book to your favourite café and allow yourself to relax and enjoy just as much as if you were on holidays.
- Put together an amazing costume and throw a Hallowe’en party for adults. Except do all the things you used to do as a child – play bob the apple, eat coconut and colcannon, watch movies and buy stuff in for the trick-or-treaters.
- Make plans. If you’ve something to look forward to, it’s less easy to fall into an apathetic mood. Book a January sun or snow holiday or a city break. Or buy tickets for an upcoming show or gig.
- Grab your best mates for a comedy night or get all dressed up and go for dinner followed by dancing.
- Join a dating website and use the never-ending nights to chat up some potentials. Then, line up a few dates.
- Enrol in a new class like pilates or flower arranging or take the time to learn a new language or instrument. Or be proactive and start your own book or film club.
- Keep warm. Light a fire and snuggle up in a blanket with a mug of tea or hot chocolate.
If you’re worried that you have all the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), get support from loved ones and professionals. Then, to help yourself further, try out alternatives like homeopathy and acupuncture, take a vitamin D supplement, and do some research on purchasing a lamp. Also, make sure to get at least 30 minutes exercise in daylight each day.
And if it’s (dare I mention it) Christmas you’re (already) dreading, take the pressure off by buying the odd present here and there, starting from today. Or even better, suggest a Secret Santa arrangement so you only have to buy one or two presents each. Remind yourself that Christmas is a time to spend with loved ones, many of whom will travel home from abroad. So, you can look forward to being together, to fun nights out, good food, movies, hilarious board games, magical fairy lights and the inimitable scent of pine.
And just remember, if it weren’t for the cold, dark times, you wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine, would you?
Posted in Health, Modern Society
Tagged accessories, acupuncture, appreciation, autumn, christmas, daylight, depression, enjoyment, exercise, fashion, friends, galileo, hallowe'en, holiday, homeopathy, lamp, mood, nature, outdoors, plans, relaxation, sad, seasonal affective disorder, support, survival, tips, treat, walking, winter
As I tucked into a pita bread heaped with feta cheese, olives, tomato, cucumber, olive oil and oregano, I imagined that I was lounging on a sunny balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. A smile crept across my face as I soaked in the beauty of the scene that I had created. I instantly relaxed.
But it’s not as good as it would be if I were really there, I thought. The image (and the feeling) disappeared. Then, I realised that I could just as easily be on holidays and be so caught up in thought that I wouldn’t even see the white strand or the sun-kissed flowers. The worry, fear, disappointment or anger would smother the sounds of the ocean and the trilling of the birds.
It doesn’t matter where you are when you are not present. When you become lost in thought, you flee from the now. You are not accepting of what is. You tell yourself that you should achieve more and look better, that he should have done this, and she shouldn’t have done that. You long for the past and you wish for the future. You regret yesterday and dread tomorrow. You don’t recognise that you are in the company of another wonderful human being or that your eyes can witness the light in the sky. You forget to use your hands to touch, to feel, to embrace. You don’t appreciate the perfume of the sea air or the grass and trees after a sudden rainfall. You close yourself off to the peals of joy and the miracle of music. You don’t even notice that you are breathing, that you are alive.
Many people think that they are controlled by their thoughts. But you can decide what to focus on. Allow your thoughts to occur, then let them drift on by, like ripples in a stream. You don’t have to attach to or identify with them. Because these thoughts have the power to create your reality. What you think, you feel. And what you feel, you experience.
What reality shall you manifest today?
Posted in Personal development
Tagged anger, appreciation, beauty, choice, creation, dread, fear, gratitude, longing, manifestation, nature, negativity, now, positive thinking, power, present moment, reality, regret, thoughts, worry
Replace labels, judgements and criticism with acceptance, awareness and gratitude. Don’t take life so seriously. Instead, become curious about your world and get to know the real you.
Touch the skin of the earth and give thanks for all that it provides. Notice the sunshine flit like fireflies upon the water. Soak in the wisdom of the mountains. Put your ear to a tree trunk and listen to it drink. Watch a cluster of daffodils bobbing their heads as though murmuring an appreciation of the revitalising breeze.
Savour the tastes and aromas of a meal prepared with love. Give yourself fully to a warm embrace or the sweet caress of a loved one. Observe a baby or a child and delight in their gaze, their wonder and their greatness at simply being.
Laugh. Dance. Sing. Cry. Feel. Express yourself. Ask for what you want. Learn. Love. Be present. Enjoy life. It’s here. Right now.
Feast your senses on this voice of passion whose depths transcend language.
I tentatively suck on a peppermint tea, its steam swirling like the dream sequence in a low-budget eighties’ flick. The taste transports me from my February bedroom to Tangiers, 2004.
I was sitting outside an ornate café with my new husband, drinking the most delicious sweet tea from a tall glass crammed with mint leaves. I watched the men and women on the streets, their robes gathering in creases as they walked. Cars weaved in and out of people; horns beeping constantly like a type of shorthand for impatient drivers.
I take another gulp and am reminded of the last time I drank fresh mint tea. About a year ago, a friend and I decided to dine in the Moroccan restaurant my ex-husband works in. As head chef, he didn’t have time to converse but he presented us with a procession of trays laden down with tasters of everything on the menu. By the time the main course arrived, we were already full. And then there was dessert. It was sumptuous.
We finished off the meal with mint tea in patterned glasses, which instantly banished the sickly stuffed sensation. When I hugged him goodbye, he didn’t really hug me back. That was the last time I saw him. He has since remarried.
The tiniest thing can whisk you back to a time or a place or a feeling. A waft of coconut sun cream. The rushing of the ocean. The smell of grass on a spring breeze. The delighted cries of children playing late into a summer evening. An almost forgotten song on the radio. The scent of your first crush’s aftershave. The feeling of a lake as your body breaks its surface.
This is beauty. However, it can lead to nostalgia, a wistful yearning for the happiness of the past. This dilutes the perfection of a simple moment with sadness, regret, loss, and longing.
The secret is to experience the magnificence of these minute details right now. There is magic in every spark and crackle of a winter fire. In the music of the wind and rain dancing outside as you snuggle beneath a soft duvet. In a tight embrace. In the pale orange and yellow of a young daffodil. In the comfortable silence that settles between two people who love each other no matter what. And in the feeling of warmth and serenity as you sip a peppermint tea.
Posted in Random
Tagged appreciation, beauty, divorce, gratitude, love, marriage, memories, mint tea, moroccan restaurant, morocco, nature, nostalgia, peppermint tea, presence, present moment, tangiers
The other night, I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - a film based on a memoir written by a man suffering from Locked-in syndrome. Locked-in syndrome is a condition in which a patient has full awareness but cannot move due to complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes.
At the age of 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of fashion magazine Elle, had a massive stroke. He woke up 20 days later to discover that he was almost completely paralysed. The determined French journalist wrote his memoir by memorising what he wanted to say then dictating the text to a transcriber by blinking his one functioning eyelid (a system known as partner assisted scanning). It took him 10 months (at an average of four hours a day). He died two days after its publication.
I don’t know whether I felt depressed or inspired after watching the movie. This man had everything taken from him – his career, his partner (who abandoned him after the stroke), his health, his speech, and his independence. Understandably, he expressed his desire to die. But then he realised that, apart from his left eye, two other things were not paralysed – his memory and his imagination. He went on to write a bestseller and set up a Locked-in syndrome association. He had lost so much but the spirit within him was still able to create something extraordinary. And then he passed away.
Our mortality is something we are born with. Sometimes, I think we ignore the fact that this lifetime will not last forever. We get so caught up in routine and obligation that we are often oblivious to the beauty and wonder of the world around us. We become disheartened and apathetic, or frustrated and angry, so gratitude and appreciation seem irrelevant.
Life is short. So, we should do the things that make us feel thankful to be alive. Last week, I took my mother to see the New York Spirit of Gospel. The vocalists astounded us with their talent. They encouraged us to shake off our self-consciousness, get up off our seats and dance, clap and sing along. The performance was all the better because we joined in.
We spend so much time passively watching the world do its thing. But it’s only when we actively participate that we come alive. So, get out there and really live. Life is a gift if that’s how you choose to see it.
The world is full of miracles and adventure, blessings and delight. And there are so many ways to acknowledge this. Money or mobility don’t have to be an issue. You can travel to foreign lands or visit spectacular spots within your own country. You could walk through whispering forests and across the backs of ancient mountains. Or simply allow the deep tones of a cello to awaken your senses.
Embrace life and each other. Laugh long and hard and often. Learn how to surf or bake or speak Spanish. Tell someone you love them. Admit to your fears and share your passions. Swim in lakes and oceans. Feel the earth’s water on your naked skin. Dance. Cry. Sing. Love. Live.
Images: http://favim.com/image/31398/; http://xaxor.com/photography/25467-appreciating-life-photography.html
Posted in Modern Society, Personal development, Spirituality
Tagged appreciation, art, book, coma, death, depression, elle, experience, expression, film, gratitude, jean-dominique bauby, laughter, life, living, locked-in syndrome, love, magazine, memoir, mortality, movie, music, new york spirit of gospel, paralysis, participation, passion, song, soul, spirit, suicidal, the diving bell and the butterfly, travel