Keeping it simple

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When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.

Gilbert K Chesterton

Recently there has been much debate in our house over going on holiday. Whether I should or I shouldn’t and who to go with and where to go? Not normally something that would be debated but two years ago one of our much loved dogs was very ill and almost died. Since then he has been on regular medication and I have been anxious about leaving him with anyone else. The youngest dog also has strong attachment issues to me and this has added to the guilt I would feel leaving him to go away for a holiday abroad. This was not a problem when all members of the family lived at home as I could have gone knowing they were safely being cared for by others that knew and loved them as much as me. The dilemma this year has arisen because the holiday was to be with my eldest girl and her partner and involved asking her sister to move back home and watch the dogs for two weeks as well as getting my elderly mother to come daily to dog sit. Everyone agreed to it and yet I found myself still anxious and debating whether this was fair on the people involved and the dogs, which are also very much part of my family. There have been heated debates about priorities, mine, and lengthy discussions. Then I got a cold. Not any cold but one which knocked me totally off my feet and worse still stole my voice. All of a sudden all the debates had to stop. I could not even answer the phone. I realised how for granted I took the simple act of speaking. In fact I realised just how much I enjoyed communicating with others on a daily basis. The phone calls to friends or family. The evening discussions I enjoy with my husband about the day’s events or just sitting chatting to my clients about all that had been happening in their lives. All no longer possible as any words coming out of my mouth were reduced to a soft squeak and even attempting that was too painful. Plenty of rest and no talking was what was advised. My middle daughter came over to take me for lunch and we collected her younger sister from the train to give her someone to chat to. In the restaurant I found myself indicating no more pepper to a bewildered waiter by placing my hand over my soup bowl and getting it covered in pepper! I had tried saying enough but he had not understood my squeak and had instead kept on sprinkling. Despite not being able to reply my daughters happily chatted away asking me questions to which they already had decided my reply. “This place is great isn’t it Mum”? ”Yes of course it is you love it don’t you “, “This is fun we really should do it more often” “We will get Julie (the eldest) down next time” And the boys and Dad make it a family regular thing they decided. On and on they chattered and suddenly it came to me that I was sitting their feeling frustrated about not being able to join in the discussions and feeling a little hard done to when the real joy was in listening to them. I actually had been given the chance to sit and hear, really hear what they felt about the things that were happening in their lives, in the world and because I couldn’t speak I didn’t need to voice my opinion. This was a unique experience and opportunity for me. Generally I see my role as the” problem” fixer and I realise now that often I would be listening to issues affecting family, friends etc. and actually be  waiting for my chance to say “now here is what I think you should do”. By sitting listening to my daughters chat I had the opportunity to see how they handled and solved their own problems .Not that I think I am now redundant, it is more that I think I now have a better respect for their own capabilities and may now occasionally, just occasionally mind you, keep my mouth shut and let them figure things out their own way. Having no voice has made me a better listener and I feel that I have learned a lot. I have had to find different ways of communicating what I mean and to be more flexible. But, most of all I think that I have learned not to get too bogged down in the specifics of life and trying to control every small aspect. There really seems to be little point in worrying too much about the future when life can change on a daily basis. Hopefully my voice will return soon but its loss has made me appreciate that I cannot control all aspects of my life, no one can and why really would we want to? In our lives we will all have to cope with change. I realise that I am not actually very good with accepting change or things I cannot control. Losing my voice I initially found incredibly frustrating and yet it has had hidden learning for me. I have decided to use that to practice being a bit more flexible and try to actually allow myself to go more with the flow of life and enjoy where it takes me. So every cloud they say has a silver lining and I very much think that learning may actually be mine.

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