Thoughts on a funeral

Yesterday I attended a funeral which was heartening in its beautiful memories of a kind, generous and clever man who had put his family and education of others at the centre of his life.  It was a life well lived by a man who was interested in other people and everything around him.  A life with travel and exciting work but balanced by very strong roots in the Welsh town in which he was born and ended his days.  A hugely successful professional life lived to its fullest.

And, maybe more importantly, a gorgeous family. I know his son better than I knew him, and his son is an amazing legacy of a man who spent years driving his children around South Wales to various activities and all the while encouraging and supporting them to try whatever they wanted to, persuading them to give their all to whatever endeavour they had chosen.  His son is kind, generous and interested in everything, a chip off the old block.  His wife speaks of losing her rock, her best friend, but has the determination to enter this new chapter of her life with the knowledge he would want her to find contentment and to continue being active.  The two grandsons I know well are confident, clever, curious lads who made their grandfather proud and who were dignified and mature throughout yesterday’s ceremonies.  The measure of the man is in those he has left behind.

Yesterday I learned so much about him and it was uplifting to know that marvellous people live and influence and leave behind so many great memories amongst those they worked and lived with.  Funerals are not always the most popular ceremonies (unlike weddings and baptisms?) and there is a sense of duty of attending them, but in the main I have always found them uplifting occasions.  Even in sadness, there is a comfort in coming together and sharing our sadness together.  Even in loss there is a strength to be found in sharing our memories and allowing a person to live on in those memories.

All of this is written from the perspective of someone on the periphery of the funeral yesterday.  I know that these are very hard times for those who are dealing with a huge loss and great sadness and my prayers are with them this morning, and I hope that they can glean comfort from yesterday.

Reaching the word count

One of the reasons I have greatly reduced by blog frequency is the sheer distraction that is offered by my laptop in the morning.  This blog is a self-indulgent way to spend my morning time.  That is definitely not a bad thing at all, I believe in self-indulgence as a way to improve energy and patience for the rest of the day.  I just get distracted once I switch on the laptop, so instead I have been reading rather than blogging recently, that keeps me focussed.  And I don’t need to get out of bed – a definite benefit in the winter.

The truth of life in the early 21st century is that much of it takes place electronically, so booting up a laptop offers lots of distractions and opportunities to “get things done”.  I am a bit addicted to getting things done.  I could be balancing the accounts or doing some useful and overdue Scouting admin.  I could be researching the new oven we need or booking the camping trip we are due to take.  There’s a Facebook group to administer, a news story I would like to investigate further.  The world is on this laptop it feels.

This morning I have given myself a stern talking to and have dragged myself off the Facebook group and am stuck to this page until I have reached my word count.  Which, come to think of it, isn’t really self-indulgent, it’s rather good practice for the rest of life and a chance to focus on one task until it is satisfactorily completed.  Not perfectly completed mind you, oh no, perfection is not mine and I avoid it like the plague because striving for perfection a great way to encourage procrastination and a lack of focus.  This morning, done is definitely good enough.  

And that’s me at the word count, so I’m out of here and back to the distractions.  

Starting the year

I am late to the slew of new year’s blogs written by many with a love of the new start that the change of the calendar offers us.  There is a large community of people who relish the challenge of setting new year’s resolutions.  And, in my email inbox and social media feeds at least, a whole load of marketing related to getting us started on great new habits right at the beginning of the year.  I am being invited to do yoga, meditate, buy courses, explore new parts of the world, sort out my budget, track my time, take on physical challenges, go sober, make this the year I find my true self, go on retreat, book many holidays.  You get the drift of the things I tend to sign up for.

I am most definitely one of those people who love new year’s resolutions, I relish the opportunity to have a blank page in front of me and to reflect on what adventures I could challenge myself with.  But here’s the thing, I make a ton of resolutions in various guises, but none of them are really ones which I have to start now in January, and even fewer do I have to start on 1st or 2nd January.

There seems to be a big thing this year of taking the opportunity of the “fresh start” as Gretchen Rubin calls this particular opportunity to change habits.  I’m not sure I believe it is a fresh start though, I love the opportunity to have some reflection and planning time, but it is perhaps not the best time to get started on life-changing habit change.  So, I’m not.  I have plans and goals and adventures ahead.  And I am loving the feeling of anticipation that the year is full of possibilities.  I think my January resolution-making is much more akin to a gardener – now is the time of the year to browse the seed catalogues and to plan the plot, and to maybe place an order for the seeds we will need to make the plot flourish.  But it’s not time to get out in the garden just yet.

The third day of Christmas

I do enjoy Christmas, and very much enjoy it as a season, rather than just one day.  The lead up to Christmas feels very pressured, as does the day itself.  Now, having been around for nearly 50 years, I can honestly say that a perfect day is nigh on impossible to achieve and frankly when they do happen it’s by happy coincidence and not through planning a day of perfect presents, perfect meals and perfect entertainment.  And that view is coming from someone with a stable family life and a steady income to ensure Christmas budgeting can happen.

As I write, I am listening to stories of people’s Christmases marred by financial instability and domestic violence. Those who are sick, caring for the sick, or bereaved have a tough time at Christmas.  Actually, why should the day be perfect for any of us?  Why would Wednesday this week, above all others this year, be perfect?  What other Wednesday have our families conversed in a calm happy manner with no arguments, tantrums? What other Wednesday has every meal gone perfectly to plan with everyone loving everything put before them?  What other Wednesday have I had the perfect amount of sleep and adequate energy all day?  What other Wednesday has every TV programme and board game been engaging and fun for everyone? Getting all that right on one day is a huge expectation.

I much prefer seeing Christmas as 12 days – in that time various things could go wrong, there is time to be grumpy, or sick or just overwhelmed, but over the 12 days there are wonderful highlights, which make for a really merry Christmas.  Some of those highlights may be with family, others with friends, or even an afternoon alone with a good book.  A walk in the sun, a Christmas card with a lovely message from someone, delicious chocolates brought to a work meeting.  All combine to make this a season of mostly joy.  That’ll do for me.

Repetitive blog theme and Christmas Eve traditions

I need to start this blog blogging about blogging, it is a bit meta, but mostly it’s frustrating.  I want to blog again.  I am missing it a lot, it was a great way to start the day for a good while.  (Not every day, waking up any earlier than 6am just to write a blog is not going to happen.) But I am not really clear why I haven’t been writing if I like it so much?

Today is Christmas Eve and my mind is mainly filled with Christmas preparations and a busy sociable day ahead, but lurking in my thoughts is a review of my year and setting intentions for next year. One of the regrets of this year is letting this blog go and one of the intentions for 2020 is starting to blog regularly again. So, why wait? Let’s get Christmas Eve started with some quiet writing time.

The day holds some very lovely traditions. This morning we gather with some friends who are local but who we rarely see, sadly, we should see them much more.  But when we’re all at home we spend Christmas Eve morning together and have done for years now.  Mince pies and coffee will be consumed and much catching up will be done.

This afternoon is about preparing the Christmas food, well, some of it.  I will spend the afternoon in the kitchen with the offspring yelling at Alexa to play various Christmas songs, and stopping me playing anything choral or by Kate Rusby or Cerys Matthews.  Never fear, I get my music choice too, as they spend a lot of time trying to not be in the kitchen and pressed into sous-chef duty.  Trifles, mince pies, vegetarian main course and a range of starters are on the list.

This evening some of the family are on duty at church (we go to church as a family on Christmas Day), some of the family are visiting others, so people will be in different places for a while.  Then we will all gather together at the end of the evening at the home of some friends to celebrate over a few drinks.

And then there’ll be some kerfuffle with presents and stockings and putting baby Jesus into all the cribs. The latter part will be a doddle this year, because I have reached genius level of intelligence and put all the little Jesus ornaments together in one box and I know where that box is.  A vast improvement on the previous tradition of me scrabbling around on chairs peering at the back of shelves to try and find where I had hidden them in the decorating frenzy.  It took me a few decades to get to genius!

I hope you enjoy Christmas Eve whatever shape it takes for you.

Parenting moves on

I’ve written about this before, but parenting is changing more and more around here.  Possibly just in my head though.  One of the offspring moved out of his teens last weekend and milestones like that make you stop and reflect a bit.

It is an odd time of letting go at this stage of parenting, which I am very happy to do.  The weekend was great fun:  he came home and we had all the usual family celebrations of decorating the house with banners, a takeaway meal, opening presents together and a family lunch and board games.  Nothing flashy, just the usual traditions.

And then he went back to his own home.  We took down all the birthday decorations on his actual birthday, when traditionally they have stayed up for about a week.  It did feel a bit strange, but to be honest, it felt fine, just unusual.  I had a moment concerned that we were just eliminating him from our weekend as soon as he had left. Only a moment though.

I am proud and thrilled that he wanted to come and celebrate with us at all and that he wanted all the traditions which we have created over the years.  I am equally thrilled that he then wanted to go home and take his birthday with him, because it was his celebration, not mine. It is an odd time of loving two opposites, him being here and him being away, putting up the decorations and taking them down again.  I’m curious to know how this parenting thing continues to develop.

Ending a project well

As I get older it becomes more apparent that there are rarely moments of true success.  Success comes in small incremental moments, which often pass by uncelebrated.  I do try to write down small successes at the very least, but I mostly do not remember to do so.  This week I hit the deadline I wrote about last week.  I have no idea of the project is a success, but I have finished everything I can do to make it succeed and it was hard work.

My family took me out to dinner to celebrate the deadline being met and all the hard work I have put in.  Not celebrating the success of my piece of work – it may still fail, it is dependent on others now, not me.  In the same way as an exam result depends on the grade boundaries as much as the effort you put in, or a job interview depends on who else is being interviewed and what the employer wants, as much as my performance.  All of these things require lots of preparation, effort and a good amount of stress.  Yet we often only celebrate if all the other elements come together and we have a visible sign of success – a new job, the top grade etc.

My lovely family decided not to wait for the others to decide on my success and instead took me out for fizz and pizza to mark the end of a stressful time and welcome me back into a calmer phase of life.  I am so grateful they organised it and held me to it.  Left to my own devices I would have slunk to a sofa and an evening of non-stop TV.  But their kindness and cleverness truly did mark an end to the stress and yesterday felt like a new start and I felt fresher and more enthusiastic than I would have thought possible at the end of Tuesday.  I am giving lots of gold stars and loads of gratitude to the family team for pizza and fizz and a great evening out.