Time to live

It is the first day of my summer holidays, and I’m delighted.  I had a lie-in. Woke up feeling relaxed.  It was finally here.  The day that I’d been waiting for, for weeks on end.  The hallowed first day of the summer holidays.

My husband has known me for over 10 years now, and he knows things about me, that I forget about myself.  How I need to drink water after a shower because I get dehydrated; when I’m feeling tense or drained, I need to get to the gym because the weights and the cardio make me feel a thousand times better……and he also knows how difficult I find the last day of the school year – even though my body may have been crying out for it for weeks…

I have just finished working with the most amazing group of children, (every year I feel like this about my class), and this year it’s such a wrench saying goodbye to them all over again.  The amount of love I’ve received from these children has been phenomenal, and I’ve absolutely adored them.  Everyday this week, I’ve come home, my arms laden with gifts and cards – some handmade, some bought – all equally precious, thanking me for what I have done for them. And I’ve been immensely grateful, some of the unexpected messages have touched my heart, and I’ve found it difficult to switch off.

Thinking about a group of children everyday, thinking about what they need – teaching isn’t just teaching – you’re counselling; you’re nursing; you’re caring about their aches, pains, cuts, dry skin, fall-outs with friends; home-life issues; sharing stories; knowing when to be sympathetic; knowing when to be humorous; knowing when they’re hungry or tired or grumpy or just too plain-old-hot.

So, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed everyday.  Giving myself pep-talks – come on, you can do this!  Three more get-ups; two more get-ups; one more get-up; final day.  And then I come home.  Drained.  Physically and emotionally.  And I realise that I won’t have to care for that set of children everyday anymore.  And it hits me – like a lead balloon – every year, without fail – and like a fool, I never see it coming.  I’ve been so preoccupied with my own tiredness and needing to get to the finishing line – I forget how sad I get when I come home, knowing that ‘that’s that’, for another year.

But it’s not just incredible, loving children that I’ve met this year.  I’ve encountered some phenomenal adults too.  Once in a while, you meet people who are absolute beacons of strength and positivity.  People who have suffered loss or illness in their lives, have had to make life changes, and haven’t let life beat them, get the better of them – instead they walk around, head held high, as an inspiration to others.

One person I met recently, was really successful in her job, running half marathons, working hard, playing hard, never resting – then her world came crashing down as she developed ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’.  From being a hyper, energetic, high performing individual – she described the pain she felt when she couldn’t even put one foot in front of another to walk.  In order to recuperate, she had to make substantial life choices – give up the job that she was doing, concentrate on healing her body and getting back to a position where she could function again.  She’s in a much better place now, but as it’s a condition that will never go away, she has to be careful not to overdo things, to know her limits, slow down before things spiral downwards for her.  Whenever she sees me though, she’s always greeting me with a massive hug and a kiss, making sure that I’m ok, telling me not to work too hard – and I feel humbled.

And then I met another incredible, phenomenal woman.  I only spoke with her for 7 minutes.  But I don’t think that i will ever forget her.

My friend introduced me to her, and explained that she wasn’t well.  I felt confused.  In front of me sat a petite woman, I guessed in her 40’s, with glowing mocha coloured skin, shiny black hair cut into a bob, sitting quietly and still – just an immense sense of stillness about her.  She opened her mouth and in a very matter of fact way explained that she was living with cancer.  Bewildered, I didn’t know what to say, but the fact that she was so open, made me feel that she wouldn’t mind if I asked her questions.  I was right, she didn’t mind.  She explained that she had breast cancer, but the doctors were not able to operate because the cancer had spread to her spine and ribs.  The doctors were incredible with their treatments, and she had carried out a lot of research to support their treatments with a massive lifestyle change and using alternative remedies too.  She explained how cancer thrived and was most comfortable in bodies with a lot of acid.  The acid was in processed foods and food that contained a lot of pesticides and growth hormones.  She was having a mainly vegan diet and only bought organic food to reduce the amount of acid in her body and make the conditions in her body, more alkaline based.

I asked if stress caused more acid in the body, she replied most definitely.  It’s so important to eat well and avoid stress as that helps your body so much.

If it was up to me, I would have carried on talking to her for as long as I could. But I had to leave.  But she and her words stayed with me.

Both women made me think that we – everyone – we have to slow down.  We must slow down.  We are a world of people pursuing money; having the nicest houses; having the nicest cars; having the best holidays; leading the high life – but does any of that matter if you don’t have your health?  Mental health?  Physical health?

I, for one, am going to slow down.  Love life.  Love people.  Not stress.  Not worry.  Eat well.  Be happy.

Life is too short, and on the flip of a coin, circumstances can change within a heartbeat.  So I will avoid those who enjoy drama, those who enjoy competition, those who revel in the misery of others, those who are there to make life harder for others.  And I pray that I meet more people, who inspire me, who remind me of what life is really about – people who make the world a much better place.

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All you need is love.

It’s the start of summer and we’ve been lucky.  May was beautiful.  Warm.  Not much rain.  Threats of terrible thunderstorms that haven’t yet transpired.  It’s been wonderful.  It was also my birthday.  I was supposed to be a June baby.  June 6th was my due date.  ‘Stuff that!’ I must have thought to myself in the womb, ‘Whitsun week and bank holiday Monday is where it’s at!’  So I arrived early, timed it perfectly, which means that only on one occasion in my life have I spent my birthday at work.

My birthday was wonderful.  Spending time being spoilt by loved ones.  Marvelling constantly at how my actual age does not match how old I think I am inside my head.  Am I really that many years old?  How did that happen?  Having young children helps too.  Being around little ones keeps you youthful.  You see life from their point of view, you see what makes them squeal with delight, you see what makes their hearts break, and you remember going through those things when you were young, and being there for them, takes years off you.

When I woke up this morning, I was relieved.  I’d just had a terrible, vivid nightmare where I was protecting my children from a monstrous man; the rage, the anger, the fear – all too real.  The comfort of the noises of the girls playing downstairs, already awake and ready to start the weekend, reassured me, I had woken up, the nightmare was just that – nothing more.

Walking around the house, whilst brushing my teeth, having breakfast, putting clothes outside on the washing line to dry, a song was going around and around in my head.  ‘All you need is love – dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, – All you need is love – dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, – All you need is love, love; love is all you need!’  Even as I write, the song is still going round my head, stuck, unwilling to give me some sort of a reprieve.

It’s not that I don’t like the song; I most definitely do.  It’s the simplicity of the song that I both love and also find irksome.  How can it be?  All you need is love.  But I’ve been thinking about this all day.  And I’ve been debating – is that do you need love?  Or do you need to give love?  If love is all you need, then why do people who are loved, still slip away?

What do I mean by slip away?  Well, this week in the news, there have been two cases of high profile people, who have sadly committed suicide.  What people have said about them, have brought me to tears.  So many lovely, touching words.  So many people describing what an effect and impact those people had had on other people’s lives.  And I wished, I just wished, that those people could have read or known how important they were to others.  How valued they were.  If they could have just talked to someone about what they were struggling with.  Perhaps; just perhaps – suicide might not have been the answer.

Whilst briefly reading about these people, what struck me was that they appeared, to the general public, to be so successful!  Talented, wealthy, famous, popular.  And yet….  They weren’t immune from the incredible, desperate sadness that drove them to the decision that they simply could not go on anymore.

Everyone’s life seems so glossy like a shiny brand new magazine, doesn’t it?  Particularly on social media, where people filter, edit and crop out the parts that they don’t want people to know and see, and present the aspects that are palatable.  But my advice is, don’t assume that your friends and family, who post their beautiful profile pictures, who celebrate successes on social media – are OK.  Don’t assume that anyone you love and care about are ok.  Check in on people.

Make the time, make the time – make the time – to make real contact with people, meet them, see them, make sure all is ok with them.  Forget texting.  Texting doesn’t have a shaky voice; lines under the eyes; tone of voice that betrays how someone is really feeling.  Meet people.  Hug your loved one.  Scientists have claimed that hugging releases serotonin into people’s bodies.  So meet, hug, talk, laugh, care.

I know it’s not that simple – love is all you need – life isn’t that simple.  We don’t have the time to care, we don’t have the time for anything.  But we need to make time.  Because once those loved ones are gone – that shit is permanent, and no heartfelt tributes are going to bring them back.  So reach out.

And finally – you.  Yes, you.  Talk to someone that you love and trust.  Go to a GP.  The medical profession contains angels.  They will help you.

Everything in life is temporary.  This desperate sadness that you might be feeling – it doesn’t have to last forever.  Your troubles won’t last forever.  Please reach out.  Talk to someone.  You have no idea how important you are.