Remember, I wrote at the start of January about wanting to get back into crosswords and ideally into cracking the cryptic ones.
Well, I decided to ease my way back by getting a book of Simplex Crosswords which have been part of The Irish Times for yonks. I have fond memories of doing them with Mother when I’d get in from school and get out of the big grey uniform we had. It was total unwind time and always full of chatter and banter with me relying hugely on the dictionary and her loving the anagrams.
Anyway, I’m doing one a day and am still intrigued by the extent to which 3-letter words are divils. ‘Indignation, Displeasure,’ has me stumped at the moment. Just 3 little letters. I’m clearly not ready for the cryptic just yet.
Anyway, there is a short introduction to the book and I was fascinated to see the point that one of the appeals of crosswords is: the satisfaction of finding the answers to at least some problems in a day full of more important, stressful challenges that may defeat them.’
I can definitely identify with this but it was like a shining light on why some people actually like household chores. The principle is the same, a sense of control and completion.
Give me a crossword any day to satisfy this ‘need,’ even if the 3-letter words sometimes feel like scrubbing burnt saucepans – usually caused by me being off in a world of crosswording or watching a robin on the lilac tree outside the kitchen window.
Ever since I was about ten or eleven I had a thing about taking time to think about what was going on in my life – all dimensions of it – and tended to get very unsettled if I wasn’t able to step back and process what had been happening. I had life categorised into key aspects like: family health, my studies, tennis, friendships, money, peace in Ireland and the world. It was unusual to find that everything was going great at the same time but it was also reassuring to find that it was highly unusual to find that all aspects were in a complete mess.
I used to write a lot back then in big notebooks and always felt much better when I had caught up with myself- so to speak.
I remember asking a few friends who were a bit older than me if they felt the need to do the same and they looked at me as if I was totally mad. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone since in case I get the same reaction ( I’ve learned not to give a damn now if people think I’m daft) but thought processing/ or the lack of it has been playing on my mind of late as I know I have been dodging a lot of what has been going on because it can all be a bit hard to take in and deal with.
However, I kinda know it’s time to face up to unprocessed thoughts when sleep is all broken and my greatest desire is to walk faster than the speed of thought. The latter is definitely good for fitness and for de-stressing in the short term but it’s no way to be carrying on day in, day out, as I perceive it.
I suspect that half the world is grappling with trying to come to terms with the multiplicity of changes that have occurred in the last year or so. The pandemic is one huge matter but clearly everyone has additional things going on in their lives and the pandemic is most definitely not impacting on everyone in the same ways.
So, how are you all doing in terms of thought processing? Was it something you felt the need to do before these strange times or did you simply live, live, live?
Also, how are you dealing with thought processes now in the midst of the pandemic especially if your ‘normal’ round has been turned upside down and inside out either directly or indirectly by the virus or by something else entirely?
I am feeling chuffed because I completed a computer course yesterday that I started at the beginning of the lockdown here in Ireland in March.
My computing days began when computers were as big as juggernauts and I am pretty much self-taught so I decided to have a go at getting the basics sorted and certified after all this time.
I’ve loved it and plan to push on now.
I have a thing about learning something new when the situation changes so learning Spanish came when I broke my leg and knitting when I broke it a second time.
I think all this comes back to the fact that we were reared with the philosophy that boredom isn’t an acceptable or necessary state and that one can never run out of new things to learn.
I’m still toying with getting to grips with playing the banjo, getting to know the sky and conquering those crosswords that seem impossible to figure out even when you have the solution in front of you.
This is one of my rollercoaster weeks as it includes son, Harry’s birthday (22), and my mother’s anniversary (1921-2009).
It has also been a week which has seen the horrific bombing in Manchester and a number of terrible tragedies here in Ireland.
I suppose it’s not surprising that I have found myself reflecting on all sorts of issues around life, love, loss and grief. The following are among the many thoughts that have been flitting around in my heart and mind:
#1. The fragility of life is mesmerising. While we need to be very aware of this fragility in order to make the most of every moment, it is something that dances around like sunlight playing with trees in a soft breeze.
#2. To love and be loved brings with it the risk/likelihood of having to deal with loss.
#3. Losses are not objectively categorisable in terms of their level of awfulness. To go down that road is to over-simplify what is a highly complex matter ~ and we need to be conscious that a whole host of factors come into play in terms of how losses are processed by different individuals and that one person may process losses in his/her life very differently.
#4. While there may be competitiveness in the cut and thrust of life ~ competitiveness has no place when it comes to grief and grieving.
#5. We need to recognise that there is no single best way to grieve or to deal with people who are grieving.
#6. We also need to be acutely aware that what may appear like the same loss in say a family context may well be dealt with very differently by the various members of the family. Remember that each family member is unique and has unique relationships with other members of the family.
#7. The extent to which we love someone does not necessarily equate with the grief we feel when they die. We may have a sense that a person has passed on a legacy of strength and that is something that can sustain us through what can appear on the outside to be an overwhelming loss.
#8. It is impossible to know how anyone will react to the death of a loved one, no matter how expected or unexpected that death is.
#9. Memories of loved ones who have died live on in a host of different ways and cling to all the senses, especially touch, smell, sight, sound and taste.
#10. Memories can be extremely vivid and key moments may remain etched in one’s being for years and years and years. Those key moments may well involve exchanges with people around the time of the death of a loved one as our senses may be very heightened as we seek to cope with what may seem like the overwhelming.
#11. Life is for living; life owes us nothing; we have no ‘entitlement’ to live to a great age.
#12. Love should be nurtured, treasured, celebrated and scattered to the winds as well as held close to the heart.
#13. The sharedness of life and love, lived to the full and with as few regrets as possible, are anchors that can sustain us through unthinkable losses and terrible tossings of grief.
It has been one of the stormiest days for a long time and the sea took on a whole new look in Co. Waterford today.
Stormy seas have a wild beauty about them, but they are also reminders to never, ever take the ocean for granted as it has its moodiness and turbulent times, just like the rest of us.
Here’s a few quotes about storms that I especially like:
The heart of a man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too. ( Vincent van Gogh)
You don’t have to love the storm but you have to know its language in case you meet it. (Mehmet Murat ildan)
There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms. (George Eliot)
America needs to get over it. We can’t control everything. We can’t control the storms. (Russel Honore)
Nothing is more beautiful than love that has weathered the storms of life. The love of the young for the young, that is the beginning of life. But the love of the old for the old, that is the beginning of things longer. (Jerome K. Jerome)
Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray. (Lord Byron)
The world is full of highly complex and challenging issues ~ wars, starvation, greed, absolute poverty, inequality, quiet desperation, physical agony, homelessness, hopelessness …..
I often think that there is far too much of an ‘I’m alright, Jack,’ attitude out there and that there is a ridiculous level of crazy positivity knocking around, which essentially acts as blindfolds and earplugs to the hurt that is just around the corner, if even that far away from any of us.
I really worry about the message that the massive emphasis on positivity sends out. In short, I feel that stuff like: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ essentially makes people who are in horrible situations feel like it’s their fault for not being able to get out quagmires that would be overwhelming to absolutely anyone.
Some people, though, have a way of doing very simple things that reveal all that could be great in a world that often seems to be losing its way and imploding into ‘I’ ‘I’ ‘I-ness.’
Here’s one example of such simplicity which I happened upon, as I was out and about the other day here in Co. Waterford:
I spent half the afternoon watching last night’s US Presidential Election Debate on You Tube. I’m a political animal and would have stayed up half the night but had been up almost all night the night before so sleep won.
It was very strange to be sitting in my kitchen here in the South-East of Ireland, watching Hillary and Donald do battle. I had made a point of not listening to any analysis of the debate until I had seen it for myself.
It was intriguing viewing and I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about the human beings that lay behind all the talk. Nor, could I stop myself from wondering if anyone in America would have the remotest interest in watching a Presidential type debate (or a Prime Ministerial one) from Ireland. I can’t imagine how that would come across to an American audience!
Yes, the human stuff! How nervous were they? To what extent did they feel an ironic sense of being in the same boat. After all, even though they are on absolute opposing sides in political terms, they had a lot in common last night as they ‘shared’ that stage being watched by millions and millions of people from all over the world. In overall terms, I felt that had I been unaware of the background to this debate and just arrived from Mars, I would have thought they were both pretty articulate, civilised human beings. (I never, ever thought I would be writing such a thing!).
The debate certainly dealt with BIG ISSUES ~ world matters; stuff that marks a moment in global history.
It stood in stark contrast to a chance meeting I had this morning with a man who comes to stay in Tramore for the summer months each year. We stopped to have our usual chat and I was sorry to hear that he’s packing up to go back up country this weekend. He’s a fine cut of a guy; well into his seventies and looked a million dollars in a pair of shorts, bare tanned top, and a his wide brimmed sun hat.
He’s known hardships in his life but is always on for a laugh, as well as down-to-earth honesty. After our ‘hellos’ he pointed out to the dancing sea and then up to the beaming sun and just said: It’s the simple things …’
I’ve been thinking about his words in the context of all the hullabaloo about the US Presidential debate and, what I’ve found very odd, is that I haven’t been able to identify anything that I feel I could call ‘simple.’
I was looking through a heap of photographs to find an image of ‘simplicity’ and this is the one that keeps pressing forward but I hesitate to agree with it!