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A Few Tips On Life

December 6, 2016 22 comments

I’ve recently been invited to become a guest contributor by the good people on a blog called Make It Ultra. This is a great place to go to if you’re in need of some inspiration and I recommend it to you – and not just for my posts there! This is the second post they have done with me, and hopefully there will be more. They have featured it today in their top five recent posts, so hopefully I’ll be asked back again sometime!

This is what they posted for me:

A Few Tips On Life

I’m a little bit older than other contributors here, and while that doesn’t bestow on me any extra wisdom it does mean that I’ve experienced more years of life and what it can throw at us. Life is a series of phases: school, college, university, relationships, job changes, and then retirement. But just because parts of our life are ending this doesn’t have to be negative. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

1. Recognize the good things in every life stage, and try to hold onto them.
Often, as in education and work, this can mean the people you have as friends. If you move on, you don’t have to leave them behind. So keep what is good – for you. You must recognise what works for you. Who do you value in your life? Would you miss them if they were no longer there? Would your life be poorer without them? Answer ’yes’ to these and you’ll know who to stay in touch with, and who were the ones who you can part with. It sounds harsh – but it’s realistic. We don’t have unlimited time, and we need to use it wisely.

2. Let the past go
You will be wasting energy if you try to recreate something which has gone, that existed in another part of your life. As we get older, we move out of education into work, and it is likely that we will have several job changes. You may well get a lot of fun from your job, but don’t expect that to be the same if you move on. You’ve changed your circumstances for a reason, so be positive and find the good in your new situation: embrace that change and make as much as you can out of it. A new job, new friends, maybe a new location – these can be very exciting. Remember Don Henley, in The Boys Of Summer? – “A little voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back. You can never look back.” Grasp what you have, not what your mind is telling you that you used to have!

3. Look ahead
Plan for your future. What you are doing now is part of your whole life plan, so do you know how it fits into that? Do you have a plan for where you want to be? That can mean job or personal ambitions, and it can be a huge benefit to us to have a sense of where we are going, of how we want our little place in the world to be. We all need a sense of purpose – it can keep us grounded and can help us when times get hard. If we know that we have goals to achieve we are better placed to overcome the obstacles that life can put in our way.

4. As you move through life, the ‘R’ word approaches: Retirement. Think of retirement as an opportunity to do new things in your life.
When we are younger, this can be something we dread. “We’ll be old! Our useful life will be over! We’ll be a burden!” Be honest, have you ever thought something like that? I guess your retirement could be like that: if you choose it to be. I retired three years ago and it doesn’t feel like that to me, honest! I started blogging in my final year at work, and am still going strong with it. I’m going to more live sporting and music events than I ever could while work got in the way. I can visit galleries and museums. I can see family and friends whenever I want to. Or I can spend my days at home with my books, music and movies. I’m even thinking of learning to play guitar, and to develop apps, though both of these are ideas at this stage! It doesn’t sound that bad, does it? It’s a beginning, not an end! In fact, it’s just the next phase in our life.

5. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
I said earlier that we should plan ahead. I know the old saying that if you want to make God laugh you should tell Him your plans. Things don’t always turn out the way we expected or planned. In my case, this meant getting divorced six years before I retired. I hadn’t been expecting at that point in my life to be making a new home for myself, and embarking on a changed relationship with my daughters, who I no longer lived with. But I – and they – worked our way through this. My life is now very different from the one I had been expecting and aiming for. But that isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t a failure. It just proved the point for me that we need to be flexible and need to adapt to being hit by the unexpected.

Life is for living. Don’t waste it!

And if you’d like to see this on the Make It Ultra site you can find it here.

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#SaturdaySongs No.7 – Every December Sky

December 3, 2016 27 comments

As we move into December I thought I’d devote my #SaturdaySongs this month to the month itself and to Christmas. I love this time of year, and always have done ever since I was a child. Call me naïve but I really believe that there is an added warmth to human spirit in this month, probably as a counter to the falling temperatures! I’ve often posted in previous years, showing videos of favourite Christmas songs and my own reviews of that year’s crop of Christmas TV ads. No ads this year though: I haven’t yet seen one that I like and I wouldn’t want to fill a post with expletives! But I may be posting a few more Christmas songs – possibly on days other than Saturdays too!

My first December choice is this one:

In this country Beth Nielsen Chapman is sadly underrated, but she has written some of the most beautiful songs of the past 20 years. This one was on her 2002 album Deeper Still. To my shame I’d not heard of her before but was introduced to her music, as with so many other artists, by the national treasure that is Bob Harris – Whispering Bob, as he has been known since his early 70s days on the Old Grey Whistle Test TV show. In the early 00s his weekly show on BBC Radio 2 ran from 10pm till 1am on a Saturday evening, and as I was often engaged in Dad’s Taxi duties at that time I managed to listen to quite a lot of them. So it was on a December evening in 2002 (21st December, to be precise) when I was sitting in my car, in the car park of the pub/restaurant where my older daughter had a Saturday job as a waitress. Bob played this and something about the beauty of the song, blended with a cold, clear, frosty night, entranced me from the outset. I bought the album, which remains a favourite to this day, along with many other of Beth’s releases. The male voice, by the way, is John Prine, whose music also deserves more attention than it receives.

img_1276Continuing the Bob Harris connection of this song for me, fast forward 9 years to 2011. I had been diagnosed with depression in October of that year, and was finding it difficult to do the basic daily stuff. I’m still not sure how I did it but I tweeted Bob a request that he play this song on his Saturday night programme. By then the BBC had shunted him back to a midnight-3am slot and, as luck would have it, in 2011 these were the first three hours of Christmas Day. Bob had put out a call on Twitter for suggestions for music for his programme, and took the trouble to reply to my slightly cheeky tweet – I promised I’d listen to the show if he played this – with the words ‘Deal! Beth’s in!’

We both kept our promise, as you can see from the screenshot from his amazing website. I listened and enjoyed three hours of magical music, and somehow the restorative powers of music helped me get through a difficult time. It is no coincidence that music is used as a therapy in mental health treatments: in addition to entertaining us it can do so much to help our mood. Like many of Beth’s songs, this one contains a real message of hope, and that is what I think I took from it, even on the first listen. I hope you like it as much as I do.

More bad news

October 5, 2016 22 comments
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Copyright Times Newspapers – click to enlarge

Another week, another scary story in the newspaper about mental health. The statistics which lead to this headline are very worrying indeed. The high percentage of young women who suffer from a mental illness, and in particular the number of them who turn to self-harm, should be seen by all as a sign that we are failing our young people. As I mentioned last week in my post Mental Health Matters this issue does not appear to be being given the priority it deserves by the Clinical Commissioning Groups, who use the funding they are given to buy the services needed by the populations they serve. As always, they are treating mental health as being of lesser importance than physical health. Spending on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is even worse: for some reason, CAMHS services are seen as some kind of poor relation within the context of mental health services. Surely, it isn’t rocket science to understand that if our children grow up with good mental health and are well supported in this, they will take that with them through their lives, is it? This survey was carried out on behalf of the NHS by the well respected National Council for Social Research, and it is to be hoped that everyone involved will take notice and take action as a result of these findings.

Apart from the headline and the story, what interests me about this piece in The Times is the focus they have taken to create their story: the full report runs to 405 pages, not including the data tables, so presumably there is much else in there which needs to be addressed? Tucked away towards the end of the article is mention of the fact that whilst men are much less likely to suffer from a mental illness or to have suicidal ideation, they are much more successful at taking this to its tragic conclusion. I’m not trying to downplay the importance of the situation in relation to young women – far from it! – but the fact that even in a brief report such as this The Times can draw some attention to the male suicide issue says to me that there is a huge amount that needs to be done in this country and, I suspect, elsewhere. I have downloaded the full report, which is freely available here to anyone who is interested.

I make no apology for writing this brief post which is, in effect, a continuation of where I left off last week. The more information that becomes available, the more widely it is shared, the greater the awareness of one of the major issues affecting society today. In these days of Brexit, immigration, racism, choosing the least bad of two undesirable Presidential candidates, international terrorism and many other important issues, it is easy for mental health to be lost in the tide of news. I, for one, don’t accept that this should be, and will add my own small voice to those who are trying to do something about this. We can only achieve acceptance of mental health as a major issue if we can widen the debate about it – this is the only way I can do this, but I know that I’m one among many who feels this way. Lots of you tell me that in response to my posts and the fact that I have had more new followers for this small blog in the past week, when I posted three times on mental health, than at any time since I began speaks volumes to me.

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