GLOWING EMBERS

The current talk of an electiricty strike brought this piece to mind. 
 It was broadcast in 2002 on Lyric FM
The morning did not start like any other.  I felt the bitter cold as soon as I put my nose outside the duvet.  Our house was never cold in the morning.  Like most, our heating system swung into action while we were still dreaming, thus ensuring we always greeted a new day in the comfort of temperatures worthy of springtime in the Mediterranean.  Not today.  Today I knew it was a raw February morning.  My breath formed little clouds as I hurried through the Siberian temperatures to investigate what had happened to the heating.  As I became more awake I realised it was not just the heating but all the electrical appliances that were inactive at 8am on this Sunday morning.  We had a power failure. 
                                                                                                  
My two small children had followed me downstairs and were standing in their bare feet and light nightwear, shivering and wondering why there was no breakfast on the way.  The house was oddly quiet. 
My first priority was to combat the cold and so I set about lighting a fire, something we usually only did on special occasions, such as Christmas or when we are having guests over on a winter evening.  There was great excitement as we set the fire and the children ran back upstairs to get their dressing gowns and slippers and a blanket to wrap themselves in on the sofa. 
“Can we watch Barney mom” they asked and I gave a quick and simple explanation of electricity, which like air, only seems important when there’s none. 
“Well can we have our toast now?.”   I was about to explain about the toaster also needing electricity when I remembered that we could make toast at the fire.  Bread, butter, jam and a long handled fork were assembled on the coffee table and I positioned myself on a low stool at the hearth and began to hold the bread towards the flames.
The children giggled excitedly under their blanket mesmerised by the flames and intoxicated by the smell of the slowly grilling toast.  Our world had condensed into this small area of delicious heat and light around the fire.  The only sound was of their little voices, marvelling at this unexpected adventure at breakfast time and the crackling of the fire.  We were joined by the cat, freshly returned from her nocturnal wanderings.  Cold and tired, relishing this unusual luxury, she laid her weary bones on the hearthrug at my feet.
It was a precious moment of pure contentment.  One of those moments when God seems to make a simple but very direct attempt to strip away the distractions of life, distilling it down to the core.  He then says very clearly, remember this moment.  This is what is precious.

Held in this moment of time, suspended in the firelight, I am transported back to the days of my own childhood.  I remember it was my father who taught me how to set a fire and my mother who had first held my bread to the fire to toast it.  I have a moment of supreme clarity when the threads linking me with the past, with my parents and grandparents are as tangible as the flames which dance in the grate.  I look into my children’s eyes and strain to see the threads stretch into their future, to their fireside and my own grandchildren.  

HOW OLD AM I?

Yesterday I had one of those blinding moments when I was confronted by a truth that somewhat shook my view of myself. I realised that I am older than both David Cameron – the new Prime Minister in the UK and his deputy, Nick Clegg. What? Yep, both men are younger than me… and I sure as hell don’t feel old enough to run a club, never mind a big country with an economy and millions of people! Is it time for me to accept my middle age? With the benefit of my accumulated years, here are some things to watch out for, if you too are heading for ‘mid life’.

* You meet someone socially, who you automatically consider a peer, until they mention the year they were born. It is the year you left school/college.

* You are driving on the motorway and begin to wonder who owns the spotty, saggy hands on the steering wheel.

* You go to your child’s parent-teacher meeting and you look like the Teacher’s mother.

* You have to attend a medical consultant and you spend the entire appointment fighting to the urge to ask him/her if they are sure they are qualified, ‘cos they look way, way too young.

* Your ten year passport (or driver’s licence) expires and you actually seriously consider phoning up to ask if they could just amend the text and leave the photo in place.

* You realise that you are booked to go out two nights in a row and are filled with dread at the thought of just how tired that you will make you. And you realise that you will miss two nights of long bedtime reading.

* You catch sight of yourself passing a window and begin to smile in preparation for greeting your mother!

I have experienced all of the above and each event left me feeling slightly off kilter. So let me now share with you some things to balance the feeling of getting older with some of the definite benefits of reaching middle age!

* You finally realise why long scarves were invented – they add instant glamour and hide a multitude.

* You appreciate good coffee and have the patience to wait for it to brew.

* You now know that it is not a luxury to visit the Hairdresser every month for colour. It is as essential as buying milk and bread.

* You know that simple things make a huge difference – fresh bed linen, a lavender bath and a good book.

* You have learned how to say No – gently but firmly.

* You are no longer overly concerned about other people’s opinions of you.

* You understand the value of making great memories which will sustain you on long, dark nights.

* You know that life will always have highs and lows – it’s how you react to the lows that will dictate your sanity.

* You are no longer afraid to fail but very afraid of never trying!

So, whatever your age – embrace it as a positive. But beware of those sneaky moments when you are suddenly confronted with the fact that you are no longer in your twenties. And when such moments knock you off balance, re-read the list of positives and enjoy your seniority!

GUEST POST by Susannah Bec

A New Chapter

As we make our journey through life we gather memories on the way. The happy moments that we treasure become part of the fabric of our lives, the shared family stories that anchor us and give us a sense of belonging, that let us know that we are a part of something bigger than just our solitary selves. They strengthen us and our bonds with others. The sharing of our memories and the retelling of our stories is an ancient thing. People gathered around a fire sharing the myths and legends of the tribe was the way in which knowledge and folklore was passed from generation to generation.

We too have our personal myths and folklore, made up of the stories we have heard about ourselves. Maybe you heard – “She is such a good girl” or “He is useless at sports, his brother is the sporty one, he has two left feet”. Positive or negative, these too become anchors, ways of being. Then over the years we add the ones we tell about ourselves, “Oh no, I am useless at that!!” – “I will never be able to do it!” – “Just my luck” – “I am so unlucky with men” – “Nothing ever goes right for me”. These beliefs and repeated stories become part of our ‘script’.

The truth of the matter is, that as good as memories are for keeping us grounded and for continuity, they are based on the past, and the people and situations that we once were, and situations that once existed. We are constantly growing and evolving and if we are conscious of the negative elements of the story we tell about ourselves, then we can choose to change that too.

“Whatever your past has been, you have a spotless future.”– Melanie Gustafson

Life is based on the choices we make every day, the book we are writing of our lives. We can write a comedy or a tragedy. We can write ourselves a part as a hero or heroine, or we can be the poor soul, the victim, the martyr. We can write a tale of drudgery and lack, or one filled with sparkling happy moments. If you thought about your life so far, what sort of book would it be? how would you as a character be cast? It is an interesting exercise to realise that we have a choice in how we want our ‘story’ to play out, what do we want to write in for our character? What adventures could we put in there for him/her? What hidden qualities could you find in your lead character? What baggage could they drop? What choices does she / he need to make in the coming pages? What is your ‘happy ending’?

All the things you have experienced, have made you who you are right now. The good, the bad, the joy and the pain. But whatever your life has been, right up to this second, you have a choice in where it goes from here. Every moment is a place we have never been before, every day, a new day. Every day is a chance to add happy moments, as the future is lived one day at a time. The future is still unwritten. You have a blank canvas, a clean white page.

The new year is coming up, a time when lots of us look back over the year just passed and make resolutions for the coming one. This year why not do it a little differently and think of which stories you want to leave behind and which new ones you want to write in. Think of it as the start of a new chapter in the book you are writing about your life.
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Susannah Bec first started blogging at the beginning of this year and took to it like a duck to water! She lives in the UK with her partner Joe and three adorable cats. Check out Susannah’s great and inspirational blogs at Joy Frequencies and My Name Is Zing.