Cast out the old year, seed something New

I lost a friend to cancer just before Christmas. She wasn’t old, lived healthily and did all the ‘right’ things but her encounter with the emperor of all maladies was shockingly brief. Just 5 months from diagnosis to death, treatment offered no respite. I attended her funeral yesterday and am still stunned. This year brought more than its fair share of rain and though I cannot afford to wish my life away – every day is a gift – I will be glad to see the end of 2015.

Cast out the old year, seed something new

2015 – A year of worry buried deep

A year of struggles, strife and grief

A year of friendship cut so brief

A year of making angels weep

The year will pass and trouble with it

The year will pass, it’s reached its limit

The year will pass, now almost through

The year will pass having taken you

2016 – New Year is edging ever near

New Year will vanquish harsh frontiers

New Year will cast aside old fears

New Year will keep your memory dear

 

Time to smell the flowers

I saw a dear friend for lunch recently. We’ve known each other for approaching twenty years – almost half of my life and almost a third of his.  We first met at work, at the beginning of the dotcom boom when internet technologies and the World Wide Web were becoming commercially interesting. We have many shared experiences from our time spent working together: the excitement of launching a new business, the mental challenge of creating something innovative yet industrially and technically unproven, deep camaraderie from working ridiculously hard to meet seemingly impossible deadlines because the launch date had been announced, a core of shared values, ethics and humour.

Its ten years since we last worked together but meeting up is as enjoyable as working together and it doesn’t bring the constant need to deliver projects, manage incidents or sort out security issues. We’d both be rich if we had a £ for every one of those scenarios we’ve managed. Now we get to talk about IT things instead of doing them while grabbing (or missing) lunch. Now we get to talk about holidays, health, children and grandchildren as well as news of friends and family. There is, I suspect, more balance in our lives today than when we worked in a frenetic start-up.

Neither of us is a person who does things by halves and neither of us will go to our graves having lived only a sedate half-life. My friend is at a point where work gets in the way of all the things he wants to do outside work. He’ll retire soon but in no way will he be retired. At some stage I hope to join him in that active, days full of adventure kind of retirement.  There have been points in both our lives where life was edged out because our careers required significant energy and we aren’t the kind of people who shirk. Do all things well or die trying could be our motto.

To be in the present and live every day as if it were my last means achieving a healthier balance. I learned the hard way. We all need time to smell the flowers, to do more than simply plant them in a rush, throw on some water and hope they grow. Over lunch we talked about my recent surgery, the benefits and consequences and that I’ve now done all I can to limit the risk of another run-in with cancer. My friend said it must feel good to have this final surgery behind me, to be able to get on with life. It does. Not that cancer was going to call a halt to everything but it certainly got in the way for a while. No-one wants to dwell on it but once you’ve been down this road you can never be certain you and the big C are through. Taking time to smell the flowers, to savour their beauty and delicious scent, holds far more importance than one might otherwise think.

Hunter S. Thompson once said “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!”  I have no way to arrive at my grave pretty and well-preserved (cancer took care of that) and in any case skidding in broadside and totally wrecked sounds much more fun.

I guess I’ll never stop planting the flowers but these days I take a moment to smell them too 🙂

B4Peace ~ Love Thy Enemy

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A belated post for November’s Bloggers for Peace Challenge, courtesy of Kozo 🙂  Go check out the other posts, ’tis the season of Peace and Goodwill.

Pixie dust: true friends keep making the magic happen.

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There are plenty of phantom-friends, fair-weather friends and friends that are around as long as the going is good.

Good friends are around whatever the situation, whatever your status and no matter how dire things look or how sick you are.

Really good friends are like pixie dust, magical and full of surprises.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer a few people told me my illness would be the acid test, that it would enable me to distinguish fair-weather friends from true friends who’d continue to scatter their magical pixie dust for me no matter how bad things became. I never wanted to believe this was the case, I fought hard to resist the idea despite some persuasive arguments from people who’d walked the critical illness path before me and found themselves abandoned by some of their dearest friends.

I wanted to believe  everyone I held dear would prove to be a true friend irrespective of my absence and my illness but sadly I was proven wrong.

A very good and true friend helped me understand this phenomena.  She explained some people find the prospect of cancer, scary treatments and the closeness of our own mortality too difficult to deal with.   It’s not that they don’t care it’s just that they don’t know how to handle me or the thought of death so discontinuing the friendship is the only option they can see.  To paraphrase, it wasn’t me, it was them. I accept that explanation and yet I still feel sorry for the friends I’ve loved and lost over the course of the past year.

Most of us get old and when we get old we tend to get sick. I’d have liked to be old with you. Instead I’m young and sick and dealing with it because that’s the only choice I have.  Maybe one day when you’re old and face being sick you’ll understand. With luck I’ll still be around then and having done the critical illness thing thirty-odd years before you I won’t be intimidated by my own mortality (or yours). I’ll still be able-bodied enough to offer support and compassion. When all is said and done they’re the only things that matter and they can’t be bought or sold.  Good friends know this and continue to bring their pixie dust even when life looks difficult and scary. I’m fortunate to have some really good friends and I sincerely hope nothing bad ever happens to them but if it should, I’ll be by their side in a flash.

I will never be able to thank my really good friends for the love and kindness they show me. There are no words or gestures that can convey what your friendship means to me. The guy who called me today and apologised for not calling more often (you’ve kept in touch and that’s what matters), the girl friend who came to hospital with me, helped me have the most fun I’ve had in ages and made me totally forget I’m a cancer patient for a few days. That was awesome!  The couple who cried when they saw me last weekend because we’ve only been able to talk by phone since May 2012, the other girl friend who visited a couple of weeks back and took me out for lunch. The two guys I’ve known for ages who check on me regularly and are always ready to offer a hug, real or virtual along with words of wisdom. The members of my previous team who’ve kept in touch, come to visit and regularly ask how things are going.  My cousin who despite being in a different time zone always manages to maintain contact. My elderly aunt who doesn’t enjoy perfect health herself and my Dad who works the most ridiculous hours but still finds time to call me every day.  We’re all still here, we’ve all been through a lot, I’m guessing my illness may well have been scary for you too yet we’re still friends and most of us are still smiling like lunatics. (It’s the way forward I’m sure 😉 )

Thank you all for being the pixie dust that keeps the magic of life alive even in the darkest moments.  I hope with all my heart that you never go through this kind of experience but I also hope I’ll someday have the chance to bring some pixie dust into your lives too.

Blissful

Yesterday I had a very special visitor.  He traveled 80 miles to see me in spite of being at work until lunchtime and really brightened my day.  Later in the evening,  I had an amazing chat with my son.  Nothing remarkable there one might think.  But I wonder how many 19-year-old lads sit down and really talk to their Mom’s these days?  I also wonder how many Mom’s (or Dad’s) really make time to listen fully and intently to what their teenagers have to say?

As a mother I’ve tried to be a good parent but more than anything I’ve tried to be a true friend.   True friends can tell each other anything – hopes, fears, dreams, aspirations – and they love each other unconditionally. Unconditional love is, I think, quite rare these days but where it exists it’s blissful.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the things that make us happy because at the moment I feel deluged with advertisements for expensive jewellery, perfumes, clothing and accessories.  I see the (fake) smiles of the actors/actresses/models presented with these gifts and I read the subliminal messages.  Buy this, you’ll be ecstatically happy and feel exquisitely gorgeous.  Give this and your loved one will be overwhelmed and overjoyed.   I wonder how many of us are taken in by the hyperbole.

In my world, blissful can’t be found in or through material goods.  It’s a state of mind, body and spirit engendered by meaningful interactions.  It might be stroking a purring cat, having a great conversation, sharing a hug, walking in the park, watching the moon rise or the sun set. I am a creature of simple pleasures.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like choosing gifts for my loved ones and I very much enjoy the act of giving, but I’ve come to appreciate that the greatest gifts cannot be bought or sold.  Unconditional love isn’t available on Amazon. A shoulder to cry on can’t be found on eBay.  Supermarkets don’t do buy one get one free offers on hugs.   Only we can give each other these precious gifts and no cash is necessary.

Credit: Phandroid.com

Credit: Phandroid.com