Down the Lane

Laneways aren’t like other paths. They’re special. Magical.

I have always lived in an older area, so there are lots of laneways around. I used to walk past them on the way to school, on the way to the shops or friend’s houses. And of course, sometimes I would walk down them, or up them. They are gaps between properties, between buildings. But they always feel like more than that. Like gaps between worlds. Or even other worlds themselves. They are always different from the streets at the top or bottom of them. They are always darker, colder and quieter. And some are always windy, even on a still day. They feel different, like you could be in another world. And they are dangerous. We were always warned about them. Watch for strangers lurking near the lane, and if you see a stranger walking towards you, turn around and walk back to the street. And never play in the lanes (though we did).

And so, with these warnings echoing in your head (even now), you’d walk down (or up) the lane with a feeling of anxious anticipation. What would be waiting at the end? Would you even reach the end? And what would you come across on the way? Fairies, pixies and elves? Wolves in girl’s clothing? Would the path change, become other and lead you into another world? Anything seemed possible. So much so, that we used to dare each other to walk down (or up) the lane alone. Sometimes we’d dare ourselves. A lane was an adventure, waiting to be had.

There are laneways in the city too and most of these are fairly ordinary, just like smaller streets, but there are a few, tucked away, off the main streets that carry that magical feeling. Well there were anyway. Ones that I’d visit as a child and once you’d stepped into them, you could feel it. The sights, sounds and smells of the city seemed duller somehow. The shops that populated these lanes felt different too. They were small, dark, specialty shops, run by interesting people, selling interesting things. We used to go to a café in one of these lanes. It was called Mr Gordon’s. It was tiny, and dark and every wall was covered in art, which was for sale. It felt otherworldly. I loved it. Even when I was older and worked in the city, some of the lanes that led to the alleys that led to the backs of the buildings where I worked had that magical feeling. The alleys didn’t. The alleys were just dirty and dangerous for a completely different reason. But the lanes… I don’t know if they still exist or if they do, are still magical. I hope so.

The lanes where I live are still there, and even now when I walk past them I can still feel their magic. I still hear myself daring me to go into them. The lanes are still an adventure. Where the gaps between worlds are blurred. Where anything is possible.

I think I need to go for a walk.

Lanes 7 (600x800) (2)

 

 

Things

Today, I’m making a stand for things. Things as in things – objects, items, material possessions. This is partly because I’m in the very long process of cleaning out my things and those of people no longer here and partly because I’ve read a couple of those inspirational memes that do the rounds every so often. You’ve probably seen them, the ones that say things like ‘use things not people, love people not things’, and ‘the most beautiful things in life are not things, they’re people places, memories and pictures, feelings, moments, smiles and laughter.’

While I absolutely agree that one should not use people, I think that some things are worth loving, and while yes, people, places, memories, pictures, feelings, moments, smiles and laughter are beautiful, things can be too.

We certainly live in a society where far too many people place too much importance on material possessions, but I also think that some things deserve to be considered important. I feel that some may even be more important than people, and it seems some people agree with me, enough to be willing to risk their lives – or in some cases willing to give their lives – to protect these things. Things that they deem more important than their life: great works of art, religious iconology, archaeological artefacts, books and great architecture. These things are irreplaceable. They show the genius of those who have gone before. Things, the likes of which may never be seen again. Things that inspire. Things that shine a light on the past and perhaps even give us guidance into our future.

I have trouble parting with some things, and it’s not necessarily because I love them. Part of it is because I appreciate how lucky I am to have things. I don’t come from an affluent family, so anything I got was gratefully received and truly wanted. I was never the sort of child to often break or lose things, so I still have a lot of things from childhood, a lot of personal history. I also hate to waste things, so when cleaning out I need to know that they will be re-housed, re-used, or re-cycled. But it’s also more than that. I have trouble parting with some things because of what they represent. Each thing – even mundane objects – has a whole history of memories associated with it. Where and when I got it, who gave it to me, what it meant to get it. And some objects connect us to others, especially those no longer with us. We love some things because someone we loved loved them. And sometimes it even feels as though a thing has somehow absorbed a little piece of the soul of the one who loved it, and when we see it or hold it, it’s like seeing or holding them. It connects us to them. And surely, that’s a thing worth loving.

Truth

I would rather be told the most horrible, horrible truth, than a wonderful, wonderful lie. Especially about myself.

The truth is we all lie. Everyday. All the time. Anyone who tells you they don’t lie is a liar. The most we can hope for is to try and tell the truth. To try and be honest.

I like to hope that most of the lies we tell are the ‘little white’ variety, those designed to protect. The ones we tell when we’re being nice, trying not to hurt or injure or offend. The ‘sorry, I don’t have time,’ type we tell to survey takers or product demonstrators when we really mean ‘I don’t want to,’ or the ‘oh that dress is a lovely colour,’ but we don’t add the ‘but looks hideous on you,’ part, or even the ‘yes, your grandson certainly is a special child, isn’t he,’ when the ‘special’ you mean is not the ‘special’ she means. All harmless enough. Aren’t they?

For most of us, the person we lie most to is our self. I try to be honest with myself, to myself. But it can be hard, especially when you fall short of your own expectations. And sometimes, you have to lie to yourself, just to get through the day. Most tell simple lies; ‘One more biscuit won’t hurt,’ ‘I’ll go to the gym tomorrow,’ ‘Five minutes more in bed won’t make me late,’ but sadly, some tell bigger lies that tend to delusion. People overestimating their abilities, their intelligence or their impact on others around them. Often, these people don’t even realise they are lying to themselves. That is genuinely how they interpret the world.

And that’s the thing about the truth. Often it’s subjective. People can look at the same incident and see two completely different versions. In truth, there is often no black and white, just huge grey areas. There may be one or two simple facts. Something definitely occurred, but the how, why, where and when may be subject to many and varied interpretations. The truth is, truth is a minefield.

I like to think I’m honest, but I’m not. I don’t always tell the truth. I don’t necessarily lie, but I don’t tell the truth either. I have been told some whoppers in my life, lies that perhaps were told to protect, or because they were believed not to be lies at the time. I’ve even been one to keep secrets – lie about certain situations, or at least not tell the truth about them, because I was led to believe the consequences of not doing so would have horrible ramifications. And all of it has had long lasting (and sometimes devastating) effect. And that’s why I still don’t always tell the truth. Sometimes, the truth is so huge, and stretches back so far that it’s just impossible to give voice to. And sometimes the truth would devastate others. It would do me so much good to unburden myself of it, but could I live with the consequences? And that’s when I stay silent. Silence speaks volumes, where truth can’t.

The effect of a lie, even when told to protect is almost always so much worse than the truth. The truth may be ugly and uncomfortable, but it lacks the betrayal of a lie. So when I ask a question, I want the harsh, cold truth, no matter what. I don’t really know how often I get it though. And anyway, wouldn’t it be just one interpretation of the truth?

And then there are those who are just liars. It’s just part of their nature to embellish, or to manipulate or to simply lie through their teeth to get what they want. Some truly don’t know that they are doing it, it’s just who they are, while others are fully aware of their actions and just consider it another life skill. And now, we’ve been delivered a whole new way to lie. ‘Alternative facts’. Anything that is an alternative to a fact is a lie. But even in the highest echelons of society, those who should lead by example, now consider this perfectly acceptable. They say that truth is the first casualty of war. But in truth, I think truth is constantly a casualty of many factors, in almost all situations. So much so, I sometimes I wonder if there is such a thing as truth at all.

Change the World

I got to thinking, while singing along to Deborah Conway:

“I’m just trying to keep afloat,” – ‘Hell, yes! Some days that’s how it feels.’

“I’m not looking for buried treasure,” – ‘Well it would be nice if some came my way.’

“I’m too old to change the world,” – ‘Um, no. Just no.’

Everything we do, just our very existence, changes the world. Every decision we make, every interaction with another person or the world at large changes the world in tiny, subtle, maybe almost imperceptible ways at the very least, and sometimes in huge, significant ways. Just a smile can change the world for someone who really needs to see a friendly face. A kind word or a compliment is all it takes. Turning a light switch off or recycling that packaging. Some, because of their occupation, do bring about huge, significant changes every day – doctors, nurses, teachers, politicians.

I know I’ve changed the world, in little ways, and in a fairly big way, because someone told me I had. When the manufacturing industry here began to close down, I was employed to teach unemployed factory workers for whom English was a second language, office and computer skills as part of a language course. Years later, I ran into one of my students who thanked me. She told me she had gone for another factory job and they had asked her if she could use a computer. She said yes. She got the job, but not in the factory, in the office. It was better hours and better pay and that was all because of me. She had a better job, a better life. For her the world was changed. And for me too.

So, go carefully and kindly. Use your powers for good, not evil. Change the world for the better every day, in every tiny, little thing you do. And in great, big, giant ways if you can.

Fearless

This was written in January 2017

I’ve come across the word ‘fearless’ a few times in the last few days, and it has made me think. Neil Finn called Nick Seymour fearless in the Crowded House reunion concert. Then in a celebrity’s end of year Facebook post I came across, they said that in 2017 they wanted to be fearless, to live without fear of others. Noble sentiments, I get what each was saying, but I certainly don’t want to be fearless.

Fear is such a useful thing. It is designed to keep us safe, indeed, alive. Anyone who has a dangerous occupation will tell you how important fear is. In fact, they will probably tell you that if they were ever to become fearless, they would not be able to do their job safely at all. I would never want to lose my fear. Fear helps us to grow. When we tackle things that make us fearful, we learn about ourselves and grow as a person. And I certainly wouldn’t want to lose the ability to become fearful for the well-being of others; for their situation or circumstances. The fear that fosters empathy and compassion, the need to help and strive for social justice.

No, I never want to lose my fear, but I don’t want you be ruled by it, or to let it overwhelm me either. I will keep fear but ask for courage to keep challenging it, to confront it. To tackle it head on and rigorously test it. Is it justified? Is it based on truth, on fact? Is it rational? And above all, is it reasonable? And if not, I’ll work against it. I’ll overcome it. I’ll learn from it and grow. And I will try and do the same with the fears of others. Try to understand it and maybe even alleviate it.

I don’t want to be fearless, I want to be courageous.

And then, on the death of Carrie Fisher, I heard Harrison Ford describe her as emotionally fearless and I thought, ‘yes! That’s the kind of fearlessness that makes sense!’ Feel fearlessly. Show emotion fearlessly. Especially love.

The Beginning

Chronic illness teaches you a lot, about others and about yourself.  It allows you to see the true colours of others and the world.  However, its easy to lose a sense of who you are. To not let the illness and the circumstances of it define you.  And sometimes you feel as if you are going to waste, are useless.  So this is one attempt to not feel quite so useless.  It’s a chance to hone my writing skills and express myself.  I don’t know if anyone will ever read these musings, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I will post my thoughts here as an exercise in writing, and if anyone does read them, I hope they will get something out of it, even if it’s just to disagree with me.