Today I was back at the Arrow Valley Nature reserve in Redditch to meet an old friend.
He had contacted me after a recent blog had resonated with him and had suggested we meet for a walk and a chat. As we did so we discussed some of my recent posts along with the events in his own life, and how similar our experiences and conclusions seemed.
Walking and talking really is the best way to explore thoughts. The endorphins are flowing from the exercise and you feel good. It’s not difficult to be open.
I’m an open person anyway – but things just seem to flow when I’m ‘twalking‘. It’s my new thing. We had 4.5 miles of free flowing twalking today and it makes me feel just as good as the physical exercise. It’s like my brain is working out at the same time as my legs, and conjuring order out of what sometimes starts as chaos.
As we chatted the subject of my recent bereavement came up and I re-affirmed that I feel I’ve found a peace of sorts with the whole affair. I told my friend that I like to try and remember the little things – like a papier-mâché Father Christmas hat my mom helped me make at junior school. It was painted bright red and the fur of his jacket and the hair under his santa hat was made with wads of soft white cotton wool. It won me 2nd place in a contest and made me swell with pride at how good she was at that kind of thing.
I’ve had to work at collecting these good memories though. They are like precious little pearls pulled from tightly shut oysters and are hard to find. They are often present only at great depth.
However as my companion said today (and I practically finished his sentence for him in agreement) memory is not really the truth. It’s something that’s alive and coloured with feelings and perceptions that we layer over it with our thoughts and reminiscences from the past and present as time goes on.
We can choose either consciously or unconsciously to remember things kindly, badly, or even not at all.
I think therefore the very best gift we can give ourselves is positivity. The more we strive to remember things in a good light, the happier our thoughts will be and the happier our lives will be.
Is this self delusion?
Maybe – but what value is there in living with bad memories? What can be gained by focusing on the darkest moments of our past?
Sure – there is definitely insight to be found in adversity and hardship, but when we take a negative moment in time and live with it continuously, holding onto the memory of the pain or sadness it does nothing but diminish our capacity to experience joy in the present and the future.
I’m not so keen on motivational soundbites usually but sometimes I hear one that just clicks with me and hits the spot. Long term readers will have read before that there’s one phrase that I try to live my life by.
There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
After our walk my friend and I stopped for a cold drink at the Arrow Valley cafe, on the balcony that overlooks the lake. Today the water below was filled with energetic geese, and their spirited avian chatter seemed like it was all around us.
In order to sit out on the balcony I’d had to ask if the waitress if she minded me taking one of the (stronger) chairs from inside of the cafe outside to the deck with me. The flimsy ones already there just wouldn’t have held my weight.
This would have been a big issue for me in the past – and it’s this kind of ‘problem’ that often stopped me going out altogether. I don’t mind this any more. I’m intent on bending the world to how I want it to be and no longer apologising for existing. It’s only a ‘problem’ if I consider it to be.
In this spirit I asked my companion to take a photo of me, as I was still hot, sweaty and breathless from the walk.
I have a fellow blogging friend for whom this kind of image is something that used to be feared – and for me it was too, but for different reasons. I never liked being seen out of breath or sweaty – or having to ask if I could move furniture around – but who cares?
I’m not going to live my life apologising for being big. I’m just getting on with it, and making my lot in life better day by day.
After taking this photo my companion (in continuation of what we had been discussing around the lake) asked me whether I dreamed about my mother.
I sat for the briefest few seconds and considered the question. I’ve had a couple of random dreams that featured her – but nothing that was particularly upsetting or profound. The honest answer was no – although I still think about her sometimes during the day in quiet moments or when I’m writing.
Actually – when I began to ponder about it I realised that I haven’t had any really bad dreams for a while. Ages in fact.
And then something hit me. Completely out of the blue.
I used to have a recurring dream about my ex. We were together for almost five years and when we split it crushed me emotionally. I can honestly say it felt like the world had stopped revolving for a while and everything I experienced from the point that we went our separate ways felt somehow like it was only 50% of what it could have been – because I could no longer share it with her.
In my recurring dream we would be lying in bed on a Sunday morning. It was aways in a bright room with a warm duvet and we were cuddling, not wanting to get up – just enjoying being close. We’d gotten back together, realised the error of our ways and we were happy. Blissfully happy.
We were going to be together for ever.
I usually woke up crying when the cosy bubble of the dream popped – and even if I didn’t I was still affected sometimes for days afterwards with a sense of loss and sadness. The dream bled into my reality and it kept coming back.
I’d been punishing myself in a variety of ways ever since the relationship ended, despite neither of us really being to blame.
But today, sitting on the balcony of the cafe in the park and looking at the lake I realised the dream had gone.
Then it hit me. The dream hadn’t disappeared because I had replaced the thought of her with someone else. It had gone because I had made a conscious decision to live in the future and not in the past, and followed it up with real and positive actions.
As this has continued I’ve begun to believe more and more in the possibility of the future again – and without even noticing it, I had begun to sleep soundly and peacefully. When I lie in bed I’m thinking about what tomorrow will hold before I close my eyes, and not trying to forget the past.
As I said goodbye to my friend I noticed that the reserve’s car parking spaces were filled with British Gas vans. There were at least twenty of the little blue vehicles, all lined up in two neat rows, looking like they had been recently washed – but without a single driver in sight.
As I drove home I smiled to myself, thinking that somewhere, hidden deep within the nature reserve were legions of gas engineers – all taking a break from boilers, pilot lights and plumbing.
Moving as a herd in overalls and safety boots they were probably also twalking their lunch hours away and would be slowly and surely moving toward an epiphany of their own where something suddenly clicked into place, and they saw things with more clarity.
I laughed as I thought of all the bright eyed and well adjusted engineers attending emergencies that afternoon.
They have the right idea internet. The park is the answer.
Get yourself out there and have a chat with a friend. I dare you not to feel good afterwards.