Don’t sleepwalk through life

Tim and I went to watch Derren Brown yesterday in Leicester
and, despite the majority of the audience being maskless dickheads, had a great time. Derren wrote the show in celebration of his Dad, who died of Covid in March, and a recurring theme was authenticity. One of the regrets of the dying is, apparently, ‘I wish I’d lived the life that was my choice, and not the life that others chose for me’. The only life I want for myself and my kids is the one we choose for ourselves.

Now, an empty nester, in a quiet house and only two people to cook for and clean up after, life has changed. It’s a wide open space of opportunity. It’s time to ask the question: ‘what do I want?’ The question itself can be scary. I am with a life partner who I love, which is great, and not everybody is in such a happy position, but what do we do to be happy and enjoy life? I suppose the thing to consider is how to avoid sleepwalking through it all.

Sleepwalkers often buy lots of stuff. Our house is full of stuff that accumulated during years and years of life with other partners for both of us.  Boxes of books, weights, paperwork, magazines, photographs, tins of paint, rucksacks, weird spiky rollers that nobody ever uses, plugs, mugs, odd earrings, Feliway, screws, tat, tack and pointless rubbish. I think the first thing to do in the pursuit of happiness is to jettison, jettison and jettison some more. Keep the things that actually bring enjoyment and chuck the rest.
Ebay is my friend. Freecycle is my second best friend. The tip is next, and the shops are only to be approached with care, and a thought out list.

Sleepwalkers keep busy all the time. It’s tempting to fill the spaces and silence of an empty nest with projects, work and social occasions. Nothing
wrong with any of them but one of the things I’ve learned over lockdowns is to sit with myself. It was hard at first, all that quietness. But I came to the
fortunate realisation that I am my own best friend and a very good one at that.  Reading, playing the piano, looking at the sky and stroking the cat whilst
listening to some music are all very worthwhile ways to spend an afternoon.  When I changed jobs I deliberately sought something with more flexibility, so that I can have afternoons off, to see my poor old parents, or rest. I could fill up my time and earn more money but I feel that money is only useful as a means to an end. It’s not necessary to get as much as possible, which links to point 1 – getting fewer things.

Sleepwalkers get really involved in social media. I am addicted to social media just as much as the next person even though I don’t
post all that often as a way of curbing the craving. I can still occasionally lose the last ounce of sense in my brain and spend hours scrolling through and
looking at the lives of people I barely know. It doesn’t lead anywhere good. I either get FOMO or a massive inferiority complex. I keep Facebook off my phone and somehow I’ve weaned off Instagram, only going on now and again and looking at a heavily curated feed, full of people who I find inspirational and who actually teach me something.

So, what to do? How do we live purposefully? I think it’s
important to carry out experimental activities and if they make you feel good,
do them again and make them happen regularly. Since I’ve had all this gift of time, I’ve played netball (can’t at the moment due to counselling course taking
place on the same night), gone for a million walks, discovered beautiful local places, learned the first part of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on the piano, read some great books, written a blog because I enjoy writing, laid in bed for whole mornings, listened to new music, chatted to friends, gone for coffee and cake, or wine and crisps, camped, watched the sun rise over the ocean and watched it set over a mountain. Life is for living. The fact is that it’s never perfect.  Our wittering minds get in the way. But it’s definitely got enough potential
for joy to stay awake for.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

Purposeful living

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