Death Is Instructive

In light of recent obituaries in the press, this old post came to mind.

I have been to too many funerals in the last few years than I would care to experience.  They have been for family members; older friends and much younger friends; some children; colleagues and close friends; wives of church leaders and congregation members; parents of my friends, my own estranged dad – so so many than I would care to count.

I cry at weddings so it will be no surprise to discover that I weep at funerals whether I was close to the person or not. However, no matter the relationship I am always struck by two main things.

  1. Whenever tributes are read I am sometimes struck by how little I knew about the person who I was weeping over. How is it that I never knew x,y and z about this person – especially if we were in close proximity?  Like how didn’t  I know they were so caring or so giving or so wise or so funny or so weird or so interesting?  How is it that I spent so much time ‘around’ them but never know that?
  2. Regrets. If I had known that would be the last time I saw that person, I would have called.  I would have visited more.  I would have gone to that party they invited me to but was too tired to make.  I would have invited them to my home for dinner.  I would have told her I loved her.  I would have thanked them for being a great friend or supporting me through that tough period.  I would have spoken more from the heart and not had superficial conversations. I would have found out how they were really doing.  Were they happy? I would have made our last moment together count.  I wouldn’t have spent so much time being upset about that time they spoke to me in a funny way or how I felt they had treated me.  I would have kept in touch.  I would have taken more of an interest in them.  I would have ……..

Death is instructive

Indeed death is very instructive.  A funeral or a graveside is a great place to start if you want a reality check on how you are living your life.  There were a few successive years when it seemed like the only social functions I was attending were funerals.  I learnt a great deal about myself and the sort of person I wanted to be over those years.

Relationships are crucial to humanity. Even for introverts like mysel,  I willingly admit that I need relationships to keep me alive. The tragedy of life is that we take people around us for granted.  For some deluded reason we seem to think we will always be around; we will always have each other.  We take life for granted, that its electrodes will always course through our veins.  We all live in the eternal hope that we will be sustained with long life.  And so we treat each other like we will always meet tomorrow. However the reality is you never know when good bye means see you on another shore.  And so:

  • We talk to each other without listening because tomorrow we will talk again.
  • We go to bed angry, because tomorrow we will make up.
  • We are unkind to each other, because tomorrow we can make amends.
  • We withdraw our love from each other, because tomorrow they may hurt us again.
  • We do not sacrifice our time to spend it with someone because we can always go there tomorrow.
  • We do not pick up the phone to call because we will have more time to speak tomorrow.
  • We do not visit that person in hospital because tomorrow they’ll be out and we can go and see them at home.
  • We do not say sorry, because tomorrow we can be friends again.
  • We do not say thank you now because tomorrow ……………..
  • We do not say I love you, because they should know and tomorrow ………

I am not looking to score brownie points or fulfil some sort of sick righteousness, but because if, God forbid, I ever have to attend a funeral of someone I care for again, I do not want to regret not knowing them or experiencing a tangible relationship with them.  And so I call or text when people come to mind.  I ask if they are happy.  I say thank you for being there for me.  I laugh with them, cry with them.  I listen even when I feel they have not even thought about how I’m doing – I listen.  I travel longer distances now to share precious moments with them.  I reach out even when they haven’t asked after me in ages.  I bake them a cake to say I care. Just because – just because you never know if tomorrow will come, I’m trying to treat my relationships like there is no tomorrow.  Trying – it is an ongoing personal challenge.

One trick I have learnt, particularly when I feel I have been wronged by someone; I think, what if you hear tomorrow that this person has died, how would you feel?  If I feel remorse or regret and then I know, it’s not worth being upset over. Let it go.

Indeed death is instructive! Learn from it.

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In Praise Of The Unromantic Husband

When I got married, I remember feeling intense pressure for my marriage to mirror that of others around me; particularly in the area of romance.

However as God would have it, my husband isn’t really romantic. He has his moments but I wouldn’t say it’s his natural habitat. There are many things that my husband doesn’t do that I wish he would do. He’s just not romantic and so he doesn’t say I love you every second of the day. He doesn’t plan weekends away. He doesn’t see the point of eating out in a fancy restaurant. There are many things I really really wish he would do. I kind of think, they would make my life richer.  Like diamonds and pearls……… but my life would be so so empty without him.

He doesn’t say I love you with his lips but he burns it into my soul with his eyes. And when he gives me that look, I feel like there is no one else on the face of the earth but us. I become a shy little teenager and can’t stop the smile that splays across my face. Under the gaze of that look, he speaks a million and one things that words could never express. And my heart is full.

So after ten years of marriage, I’ve learnt not to wish for so many things in a way that destroys the love we do have. I have learnt to appreciate what he does do. Like the fact that he wants the absolute best for me and is my greatest cheerleader. Like the fact that he doesn’t demand that I alter myself or my STRONG opinions. Like the fact that he wants me to be happy often at great expense to himself. The fact that he remembers what my favourite chocolate is and randomly surprises me with it. The fact that he is a content being, never dragging us from pillar to post in search of nirvana.

So yeah, I don’t get the romantic dinners and mushy words and the diamonds I constantly nag him about, but I’ve got a really great man too.

Happy 10th wedding anniversary darling. I love you more!

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Joke of the Day

My husband and I were walking past a jewellery shop and I casually mentioned that he’s meant to get me an eternity ring for our tenth anniversary in August. His retort was “what do I get for ten years of imprisonment?”
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To which he got a shove.

Be More Like a Man

A colleague and I got an email full of erroneous assertions and that’s putting it mildly. I started to draft my email to basically say you are wrong jack, now back off but in as nice as possible terms. I had typed two short paragraphs but parked the email so I could go back to it later and see if it was innapropraite or defensive. I wanted it to be assertive but didn’t want a long winded conversation to ensue.

I got on with other jobs and then saw that my male colleague has responded with a single line, “I’m looking after this. Thanks”. End of!

I actually burst out laughing. I was busy being concerned about managing the relationship ,which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing, but his succinct response was what was needed. It did not get a rebuttal.

I loved his response and I learnt a lot from that simple sentence. It simply said back off because it wasn’t any of the guy’s business to be involved in the first place.

Sometimes, you really do not need to entertain nonsense. The only way to handle it is to cut it off at the root – never to rise again. LOL

Note to self: be more like a man – sometimes. 😂😂😂😂😂😂

Everyone Needs Friends

I got a cold just before Christmas! Passed it on to my husband and daughter and they graciously passed it right back to me. Happy New Year to me. -|)

Having pushed myself through the first week back at work, by the end of the week I just couldn’t cope anymore and had to take the day off. I knew the only solution was to sleep it off but there was the issue of the school pick up which would undoubtedly break into the sleep. You know when you’re asleep but awake at the same time because you know you have to be up for something? So I sent a text to a friend and asked if she would take my children home with her and I would pick them up about four-ish. That would give me about three hours sleep. And then she replied to say I could leave then till later. I could have kissed her. It was so nice to know I could really rest. I felt blessed, really blessed.

One of the questions people often asked me when we were moving to Cambridge was, “do you have friends or family there?” No was always my answer.

I’d lived in London for seventeen years and had a few friends but never friends from my immediate community. I hardly ever saw my neighbours talk less of hanging out with them. A couple of years before we moved, a group of American students rented a flat on the ground floor of our building. Of course being American, they had a different concept of neighbourhood and it wasn’t nod and smile at each other in the lift.

Within a couple of months of moving in, they started to run monthly bring and share events which were just for people to get to know each other. I never had the opportunity to go to one as with two children under five, it was frankly the last thing I wanted to do. However, I often chatted to them in the hallway or when they knocked on the door inviting residents to the party. I regret not going to one because they seemed so nice. As I got my groove in parenting, it was time to leave so that opportunity passed me by but I admired those guys.

However I’m talking about friends not knowing people. I’m talking about people who share your life; people you can run to when you need help; people who will comfort you, strengthen you, listen to you; people who won’t judge you for your failings; people who are supportive; people who put a smile on your face; people who tell you the truth and don’t mind that you tell them the same. People you can be yourself with – friends. Not acquaintances, not the crowd – friends.

They are rare, they don’t often hang out in the crowd and I suppose to an extent that’s why people asked me if I had friends or family in Cambridge. Perhaps deep down they knew that friends were not easy to come by. Perhaps they weren’t ready to build a new network of friends. Whatever their reasons, I think the question was justified because we needs friends.

I had thought my friends in Cambridge would be church members or fellow students and partners from my husband’s college. Surprisingly, they are parents from my children’s school. You never know what surprises new friendships can bring. Whether they are your family or strangers who become family, we need them. Without them life would be dreary.

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Photo credit: Warner Bros

How My Love For John Legend Began

It all started when I met my husband. There was an independent record shop on Edgware road in London (sadly it has since closed down). My husband passed this shop on his way to work daily and subsequently visited the shop daily. He would buy new indie CD’s that were not mainstream yet – the shop owner was like the Jools Holland of record shops. He always knew what to look out for and had a brilliant ear for music. So in 2003 my husband was introduced to a man called John Legend and by default I was introduced to him. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the music all that much but he had me at Ordinary people. So I became a John Legend fan circa 2003/4. His music has a special place in my heart because it was the soundtrack to the year we met. Can you hear the violin strings?

On our honeymoon, we went to New Orleans, and discovered that we just missed his concert; literally by hours. We were so gutted. And for the past nine years, I’ve been waiting for John Legend to come to the UK. Last year I put him on my bucket list and decided that I would plan a trip to the States if necessary to see him in concert. ​I constantly barraged his Facebook page to ask when he was coming to the UK, but nothing. Then it happened, May 2014, an announcement that he would be coming.

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I screamed. Called my husband – and that was my first mistake – and, regrettably, he didn’t seem so keen to go. May begat June, then begat July, then begat August and then begat September and I watched John Legend come and go. I almost went to Oslo but we had no options for childcare. By the time he, my husband that is, decided he wanted to go, the tickets were fewer and so expensive. I sadly decided to let it go aka Frozen style not without telling my husband that it was HIS fault.

​Just on an aside. this isn’t the first time this sort of this has happened whereby I’ve lost out because I wanted to go with my husband. There was the Olympics, Michael Jackson (OK he passed away), the Queen’s Centenary street party (OK it eventually rained all day) and now this. After 9 years of marriage you would think I would have learned to just do my own thing, but nooooo. I have to be all romantic and lovey dovey, two-peas-in-a-pod-kind-of-person. Well enough! I used to go to the theatre and cinema on my own. If I did it then, I can do it now. So I have calmly informed him that next time I’ll book two tickets and if he can’t make it I’ll take a friend. To which he wisely agreed was for the best. 🙂

Back to my story. So you can imagine my excitement when I got a text from O2 informing me that John Legend would be back next year and the tickets would be sold that morning. Did I wait? No. Did I consult my husband first? Heck NO! I went on-line and bought the tickets and THEN told
him. And so in June 2015, John Legend and I will finally be in the same room together, albeit with my husband and 17,000+ other people. Can’t wait. 🙂

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PS I just did a similar thing with tickets to see Julia Donaldson’s Stickman at the theatre. Seems I’ve discovered it pays to walk alone – sometimes

Mid Week Kick: Pick Up The Phone

Today I thought about a friend and rather than letting it die with a thought as usual, I asked another friend for her number and called. I could have sent her a text but I chose to call. A lot more personal; just that much more thoughtful.

She was pleasantly surprised and appreciative. I’m glad I did it.

Who can you call today? Who’s day can you make brighter with a call?

Even one step better, a long overdue visit might be the way to do it.

Change Can Be Pleasant

I was at a wedding over the weekend and was looking forward to seeing some people I had not seen in a while. By the time I got to the ceremony there weren’t any spaces left close to friends so I sat next to a couple I didn’t know. Turned out the man was the groom’s line manager and we ended up talking about our sons’ obsessions with football, after school clubs, life and general things. It was really nice talking to them.

Still I was hoping that at the reception I would get to sit with some of my friends. As I entered the marquee, I suddenly realised there were no place settings. I looked round for familiar faces but couldn’t see any. I contemplated sitting at an empty table with the hope that friends would soon gather and we could regale ourselves with updates from when we were last together. However, it didn’t happen quite like I had hoped.

At the same time, a woman who I had served with at my previous church sat at the table I was thinking of sitting at. I thought well I know her and there were two spare seats next to me if any friends came by soon. So I sat down, particularly as the place was filling up rather quickly.

I got up to get a cocktail and I met two friends who asked if there were spaces at my table. I replied yes and pointed at the table and one of them commented, “you are sitting with people you don’t know?” And my puzzled response was “so?” They politely declined the proposition of sitting with strangers.

We all like the familiar. It’s comfortable and comforting. I don’t think of myself as a sociable person but perhaps having to make friends in a city with no friends or family has morphed me into a more sociable person.

I had an absolutely pleasant time talking to this lady for the best part of two hours or more. We talked about children, our childhood, what we were up to, the food (which was really nice), some future plans, my blog – we really talked. And it was none of that stilted conversation where you are thinking of what to say. It was just an absolutely lovely time. I really didn’t miss my friends at all. Truly amazing how you can know someone for so long and not really know them.

Change is good – particularly when it opens up opportunities like these.

112 Weddings

112 Weddings was the in-flight entertainment I chose on my flight to Nigeria.  A curious filmmaker, Doug Block, wondered what had happened to 112 couples whose weddings he had filmed.  The documentary interviews couples who had been married for two years of marriage to fourteen.  It’s a bit slow to start but quite insightful and an affirming reality check.  A few marriages had ended in divorce and most of the marriages had ‘evolved’.  Whether you are in a marriage or a long term relationship, relationships are tough.  First you are thrust into an unknown future; no knowing what tomorrow may bring. And in the words of Doug, ‘the wedding day is a celebration’ and not an indication of what the future will bring.  When you say ‘I do’, you don’t know if you are going to battle infertility, adultery, a terminally ill child, depression, abuse, poverty, hatred for one another, the stresses of parenting or the illness of a spouse.  You just don’t know what it going to happen.  

I often smile when I see wedding photos.  There is so much joy splayed over the faces of the couple.  The first dance is both touching and endearing; seemingly giving an insight into how much the couple love each other.  Family members and guests are happy to share the breathtaking moments of the day.  And then it happens.  The guests all go home and you are left to work it all out on your own.  The one thing the wedding day will almost never reveal is how your marriage will be tested but tested it shall be!

For the couples interviewed in 112 Weddings, it was interesting to see that there was not one couple immune from the test.   It really is the slap in the face for all smug couples who like to make everyone believe they are in the perfect relationship.  All marriages have challenges.  The key to longetivity is to know that challenges are part and parcel the package.  It’s just that Disney and Hollywood have given us a diet of mushy, romantic drivel that mislead people.  

It was revelatory to see that these marriages were not about people who fell out of love or were battling irreconcilable differences.  The challenges were external to them as individuals.  It was about the impact of something like the introduction of a child or caring for a terminally ill child.  It was the impact of external forces that cause couples to break away or converge.  Even where the decision was to stay it was a hard, ongoing and evolutionary process; often unromantic.

There is no such thing as the ideal marriage and 112 Wedding is worth watching if only to see that you are not alone in grappling with the realities of married life.  Find out about it here.

In Honour Of Sisterhood

I have three sisters and I feel really blessed to have them as my sisters. As I get older I really really value my relationship with them. Growing up, I frequently wished I had a brother or that something was lacking for lack of having one. I suppose in a sense my male cousins were my brothers and any guy who would be brave enough to be my friend. 🙂 In my ‘wiser age’, I value my relationship with my sisters so much more. Having people to talk to about everything, sharing my life with them is just invaluable. My husband knows to highlight the things he would rather they didn’t know otherwise they will hear of it. Lol.

Beyond that, I truly value female relationships. I’ve always marvelled at how true girlfriends can get together and have so much fun and that deep throaty-from-gut laugh in spite of a lack of alcohol. It’s marvellous. Even if you don’t have sisters, you should have girlfriends in your life. I have quite a few girlfriends. I have a group of five friends from primary school believe it or not; four very tight friends from secondary school; a couple of women from my previous work place and even in my short time in Cambridge, I have gained a trio that I regularly dine out with.

I spent a lot of time avoiding females friendships when I was younger. In the past, I simply found it easier to form friendships with men. My male friends didn’t seem to be plagued by the incessant need to pretend to be someone else, were a lot more open, less judgemental and unencumbered by their issues. I guess as a young adult I didn’t have the patience for that. Or perhaps I had enough drama In my own life that I sought the simplicity of male company. As a result, the one stage of my life where I didn’t really form a bond with women was at university.

I know I’m not the only woman who has struggled with female friendships. I’ve spoken to a few people who have even given up on trying. As ‘complex’ as women can be, the quality of female friendships is totally different from that of male friendships – and I say that as someone who has a male best friend. Without coming across as stereotypical, I would say my male friends bring a refreshing objectivity, practicality and sometimes, protective taint on our relationship. However my female friends, including my sisters, have a depth of loyalty, wisdom, EMOTIONS and camaraderie to friendship that knows no bounds. I’m not necessarily comparing the two; more like highlighting the merits.

I suppose this post is only relevant if you were like me or have been burnt by ‘females’ :). Nonetheless I think everyone should have a band of sisters around them. They do not have to be biological but you should have women you can hang out with and be real to. People who won’t judge your actions but be honest with you about your choices. People who you can share your weaknesses with but will not use it as an opportunity to get one up on you. People who will listen and share your moans, cries, joy and secrets. Women who are bold like you who have great aspirations for their lives; who will cheer-lead you all the way. We all need that band of sisterhood surrounding us.

It may take some time to find the women like this, who you can trust but if you take the risk, it’s worth it in the end.