“She has the happy knack of picking herself up and making lemonade out of the lemons life throws at her.”
Sunday evening. I am sat behind the wheel of my car, a link in a chain of chrome and steel worming along the N77 between Durrow and Abbeyleix. A flurry of snow has once again illustrated the incapacity of many Irish drivers to operate in anything that passes for poor weather, but there’s nothing to do other than engage and release the handbrake when the time demands it. Slush happens.
Getting worked up about the tailback was utterly pointless: for all I knew, a car could well have been in a ditch somewhere nearby and it only takes a fleeting thought of such a scenario to keep me in check. I’ll get where I need to, however slowly that will be, but I will get there.
There’s a distinct difference between being negative and facing reality, and somewhere along the way during this self-help age, I feel these definitions have been somewhat jumbled up. Work in itself is not a negative thing. However, too much work certainly is, and I for one don’t know too many people nowadays whose weekly workload is lighter than it was a decade ago. It’s a reality across most trades, not that this contention in any way justifies the additional level of ‘busy-ness’ so many of us now face.
As an advocate of the cyclical scenario, it does help to remind one’s self of a time when people in this country had to bike it to work, sat on trains which chugged along on turf and of my own formative decade – the 1980s, when domestic power cuts were all too common.
None of us are ever as unique as our innermost self-defeating thought might otherwise constitute and life is rarely as bad as we might feel it is after an argument or a night of broken sleep. It’s a message us older folk need to repeatedly and politely transmit to young adults, some of whom see no way ahead far too quickly and all too tragically. Safe harbours need floodlighting, and that can be achieved without handing over several thousand Euro to a celebrity with a story to tell – and sell, let’s face it.
The quote which opens this week’s column did not come from a motivational speaker nor one of the many books which promises to pave the path towards a new, improved you. It was a text message I received a few days ago from a friend regarding a relative of mine and it couldn’t have been more on the money. The person being praised is someone of enormous integrity and even greater character. She has had more than her share of loss and the hand life has dealt her hasn’t always been the fairest.
But, similar to that line of traffic I found myself in last weekend, she keeps on keeping on. She’s found a way to negotiate several pitfalls that would have sunk many others and even when the guitar has needed re-turning (so to speak), she’s kept on playing.
She’s as special as she is rare. She’s valued, and in a world where it never goes astray to let people know how you feel about them, she’s been told just that. Saving platitudes for eulogies, occasionally delivered by rank hypocrites, are of no benefit to the dead. The distance a kind word will go is undefinable, and who wouldn’t benefit from a little more kindness in the ether?
And as the impromptu wagon trail slinked along a strip of County Laois tarmac on Sunday last, that commodity I regularly cite a deficiency of – time – was unexpectedly presented to me. Without disregarding the Rules of the Road, that text message was doing laps in my psyche as I sat behind the wheel and in so doing set my agenda for the week ahead. Since Christmas, I’ve been determined to get more out of myself. Perhaps a pending landmark birthday has focused the mind in that respect, but I’ve responsibilities to consider, and none of the important ones have anything to do with work.I’m fortunate in the company I keep, and as the years go by, and as the hugs shared at family funerals sadly but inevitably accumulate, the road yet travelled has sharpened my focus.
I’ve been overweight for far too much of my 30s, something which would be a source of incredulity to my younger, leaner and fitter self, so I’ve spent the opening months of the year reversing some of that trend. Last Thursday morning, to my surprise and delight, I ran 11 kilometres on a hilly loop around Portlaw, taking time for a John Mullane-type fist pump when I negotiated my final ascent. The Fitbit I received as a Christmas gift has driven me on to meet the 10,000 daily steps challenge every day since January 1st and I’ve clocked up over 520 miles on foot to date this year. I’ve been eating better, drinking more water, reading more (via audiobooks out on walks or runs) and, all in all, made an investment in myself that’s been a long time coming.
As programmes such as ‘Operation Transformation’ and the 100 Days of Walking challenge championed by Newstalk’s Dr Ciara Kelly have firmly illustrated, there’s so much to be said for positive thought, action and support. After all, there’s an abundance of lemonade to be pressed from the lemons that life invariably tosses in our direction. In an environment crying out for change, starting with one’s self is probably the first and single most significant box that needs ticking. To thine own self, be true. Enjoy your week.