Love is in the air, especially today. But what is love really? A test of love is longevity. There are many who say they are in love- but a few months or years later, it is gone. That is not love. Love stands the test of time and age- if we can love someone’s wrinkles that is true love. True love is about loving someone’s warts and wrinkles. That could be anyone from your granny to your partner. Love is about giving some time to another person.
My younger son is now at a stage when babyish words, songs, cuddles, etc are an embarrassment. He has his smartphone which he uses to organise get togethers with his friends and his own time. He doesn’t need me to wake him up or remind him to do his school work. I don’t have to pick him up from school or take him there. He was the last of my babies- who has grown up.
Needless to say, it is sad for me. Although there is much more time I have for myself, there were many days, when I felt unwanted and abandoned. It took me many weeks to dissociate my feelings for myself from that of what was happening to my son. He had to grow up, of course and I knew that. Gradually I have learnt to be grateful for this time that has suddenly been released to me and be grateful for that independent young man he has become. Life is a series of losses- as we age, we lose people, we lose things and ultimately face the biggest loss of all, life itself. However, that is what life is and if we can accept that and learn to be grateful for everything, then all our love and humanity will be revealed in what we do.
This is my friend, whom I have known for 25 years. He is sitting there with his card from the Queen to congratulate him on his 100th birthday and the two cups of tea he made, one for me (he will never allow me to make the tea!). (In case you wondered, when people turn 100 in the UK, the Queen sends them a birthday card) When I met him last week, I asked him what he thought was the secret to being 100. Of course, one must allow that unfortunate accidents and illnesses cut short one’s life, so if those are to be discounted, then he said the secret is to living a long life is being ‘open’ to life. We then talked about what being open to life means.
One meaning of being open is about being grateful for what life brings. David’s wife died more than 40 years ago and he still clearly grieves for her but he is grateful to have seen his great grandchildren and his own children and grandchildren leading happy lives. He was a tiny boy when the Great War broke out and he was a young man who served in the RAF in the WWII. After that he settled into a life of domesticity and peace, working for British Council until his retirement. He is grateful for the chances that life gave him. David has been a Buddhist for more than 30 years.
The other meaning of receptive, he said, was about being kind to people. He often tells me the same story (and I pretend I have not heard it before). This is about his friend who hated ‘doctors, Jews and blacks’. Once this friend collapsed outside a pub with a heart attack and he was helped by two young men who probably saved his life. David visited his friend in hospital and found him to be a much changed man. His friend who now had a different opinion of doctors, said, ‘You know what, one of the men who saved me was black!’ To which David responded, ‘Then the other one must have been a Jew!’ Being receptive and open means being kind to all people and free from prejudice.
Over and over again, most old people who have lived a long life, say similar things to me. I can’t remember even one bitter and angry person who has lived a long life, even with the benefit of modern medical care. David’s friend unfortunately was not able to mend his ways, despite being very rich and died early, always complaining and bitter. So there you are, live a long life by being open and receptive!
Looking cool is often associated with the young and famous. But yesterday I read a heart warming account from a 59 year old woman, Helen Walmsley-Johnson, who realised that looking cool was about self assurance and confidence. She says that couple of years ago she was holidaying alone in France and had been given an awkward seating in the middle of the restaurant. It seemed to present her as a lone woman to all those to came inside. However, she accepted this and relaxed, reading a book. Suddenly another English speaking woman came to speak to her, “Excuse me but my daughter thinks that you are really cool and we wondered if you’d like to drink with us?” These three then spent the rest of the evening, laughing and talking. When asked why the teenager had thought she was cool, the reply was that it was because ‘although she was on her own, she didn’t look sad or lost, but happy.’
How many times have I thought that looking cool was about dressing in a certain way or having cool things like a cappuccino or an iPhone to hold! No, it is entirely about self belief, it doesn’t matter what you are wearing or carrying! In fact, on the catwalk, models learn to walk with self confidence and poise, no matter what ridiculous outfit they are modelling or sometimes are even half naked. Just imagine if instead of sashaying on to the catwalk, they came out looking embarrassed- no one would buy those clothes. Self confidence, being happy and creative makes you cool!
Here is a new one I found out- when out on date, never tell anyone your children’s age. It is bad enough to get a date sometime when you tell a man you have children. Even though you make look well and youngish, once they find out your children age, I can see it all on their forehead, trying to work out how old you are. Even though this particular man may 1. already have children and is divorced himself; 2. does not want a family; 3. told you that he does not care how old you are- the way his mind works is that you still have to be nubile enough for him. I still remember the shock and horror on a man’s face when he learnt that I was the mother to a teenager, although initially he professed a great love for children and dogs. Next!