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.
I just received a gift. A big one. I am shocked and delighted. And I can see how much pleasure these extremely generous people are deriving from my reaction. Yet there is an element of resistance within me. It’s like I feel it is unfair for me to be presented with this when other people would have to work hard to get it.
For the past number of months, every morning before I get out of bed and sometimes before I fall asleep, I’ve been giving gratitude for all the wonderful aspects of my life. For those who haven’t heard of the law of attraction, the theory is that whatever you put your attention on multiplies. I don’t believe it’s really about material manifestations. Rather, it involves generating more of that beautiful feeling of gratitude, and this means creating more things in your life that you’re grateful for.
So even though I hadn’t specifically asked for this, and a part of me feels oddly guilty upon receiving it, my attitude of gratitude is working. Clearly, I have issues I need to be aware of. So I can start believing I deserve good things in my life. So I can understand that guilt is a useless, destructive emotion. So I can realise that things don’t have to be difficult. And so I can stop caring what others might think of me. If I manage to achieve all that, who knows what other exciting surprises are just around the corner.
I want amazing things for you too so I suggest that you start practising gratitude daily. Keep a gratitude journal or mentally list off a number of things you’re thankful for each day. And watch the little (and large) miracles that come your way. Enjoy. You deserve it.
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
When I read this quote by Hamilton Wright Mabie, it made me realise that Christmas is a wonderful occasion. Without it, the winter would be long and dark and joyless. Because of it, we decorate our homes and celebrate with loved ones. We prepare delicious meals and spend time with friends and family. We organise parties and string coloured lights across our streets. We give each other gifts and take time to rest and have fun. We sing along to much-loved tunes and give more generously to those in need. And we allow ourselves a sprinkle of hope and magic as we acknowledge the birth of baby Jesus and anticipate the sound of sleigh bells for Santa’s annual visit.
Unfortunately, some people dread this time of year. The pressure of spending money on presents and getting the house ready for visitors, the long dark cold evenings and, for those who have lost a loved one, the memories of happier Christmases past, are difficult to handle. However, there are many reasons to be thankful for this beautiful season. Here are some of mine…
Nature is stunning when it dresses for winter…
Fairy lights, candles and the scent of Christmas trees…
This year, I am choosing to focus on the best qualities of Christmas – generosity, love, laughter and fun, holidays and rest, good food and movies, parties, games and warm fires, loved ones who travel home from far off lands, and Christmas songs…
So, how about connecting with the true spirit of Christmas this year? The authentic sentiments of love, hope and blessings. Give your loved ones the best present of all – the gift of your presence. Your happiness. Your joy. And spread the goodwill all around. Ho ho ho!
I met someone at a festival recently, who made a few interesting observations about what it is to be human. As we walked by groups of animated festival-goers, he remarked: “Everybody here has paid money just to be around other people. Humans love being near other humans.” As we passed strings of coloured fairy lights, he added: “Humans are always drawn to the light.” He then urged me to scream: “I’m alive!” We both did, like an aural, two-man Mexican wave: “I’m alive! I’m alive!” Each declaration stirred the life inside me. “It’s true,” I thought. “I am alive.”
A week later, as I drove towards my home town, a great tune came on the radio. I’d love to be on a night out so I could go mad to this song, I wished. Then, I reminded myself that there’s no time like the present. So I howled at the moon and fist-pumped at the oncoming traffic.
And just tonight, as I lie in bed, the wind whipping outside, I grasp a whisper of that evasive peace I felt as I listened to the nocturnal sound of the sea once upon a time in Utila, in Antiparos, in Ballyferriter. I can have that peace right here, right now, I decide with a smile.
Really living doesn’t have to be reserved for the weekends or when you’re drunk or high or on holiday. Each breath is a reminder of the life that courses through you. Your life is a wonderful, miraculous gift. You can enjoy every single moment. Every slurp of tea. Every unexpected chuckle. Every splash of colour. Every chord, caress, aroma and flavour.
You know that you’re alive when your body bounces to a beat, arches into a kiss, nuzzles into slumber, twitches in a dream. You know that you’re human when you shed hot tears of rejection and loss. When your insides glow at a compliment or a pleasant exchange. When you feel the excitement of a flirtation or the nervousness of a new challenge. And you know that there’s more than all this when you feel that magical intimacy with another human being and the world opens just a fraction wider to accommodate the growth of the budding bond that you share.
You feel how spectacular the world is with every glimpse of the sky, the clouds, the trees. With every field, flower, and blade of grass. With the wind that keens and moves amongst it all. With every breath that revives you and moves you… Allow yourself to be moved.
The smallest-sized Starbucks’ Gingerbread Latte costs four euro!
Some people still call hats “bonnets”.
A person can be in chronic pain and laugh more than I do.
A large chest makes you look bigger than you actually are.
The first ever text message was sent 19 years ago. It said Merry Christmas.
If you do what you love, a whole new world will reveal itself…
You will never know absolutely everything about a person.
Everybody goes through times of hurt and grief and self-doubt.
You can love someone but find it easier to stay away.
It takes just one person’s belief in you to help you succeed. If that one person is you, all the better.
Mariah Carey has just done a duet with Justin Bieber on All I Want For Christmas. Good to know. If I avoid the radio, department stores and supermarkets for the next three weeks, I might never have to hear it.
Teenagers use shopping centres as pick-up joints.
Sometimes, you just need space. You’ll come back when you’re good and ready.
If you start being true to who you really are, you’ll stop caring what others think. In fact, it won’t even register with you any more.
Getting into the holiday spirit and hot toddies are synonymous.
Lots of people dread Christmas. It’s too much pressure. I don’t think that’s what Baby Jesus intended…
Others can’t get enough of it. Below is a house in Newbridge. It’s like this Every. Single. Year.
When a shopkeeper asks, “Is this a gift for somebody?”, it is not because she cares. Or because she is going to kindly offer to wrap it for you. It’s because she’s about to try and flog you a Christmas box.
Being outdoors in nature, personal development, spirituality, teaching, yoga, friends & family, sunshine, good conversation, writing, a good cuppa, swimming in the sea, books, adventure, travel, learning, laughter, fun, good food, bear hugs…
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