Category Archives: a musing

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Finding life in facing death

It’s the time of year when plants are dying or bedding down for the winter. It’s all part of the cycle of death and life, and it touches us all. It makes me think of when I was first confronted with thinking about death.

When I was 13, Crohn’s disease, with which I had been diagnosed the previous year, returned with a vengeance and my consultant decided it was best for me to have an operation to remove part of my gut. I was terrified. I wanted to put the operation off for a few weeks, but he strongly advised scheduling it for the next week.

At 13, I was already an advanced worrier. Perhaps because my first year at senior school, which had started so well, had been blighted by frequent absences, including a five-week hospital stay, I tended to look on the bleak side of things. What if I never woke up from the operation? What about all my dreams and ambitions? I felt it was too early to leave.

What’s more, I was worried about what death would mean. While my Mum had been confirmed in the Church of England and my Dad had been brought up as a Jew in Berlin, my parents chose not to bring us up in any religion. Of course, in those days, school assemblies included talks about the Bible and singing hymns, and I was interested in Christianity and religion.

I was fortunate to be able to talk about my fears to my Mum and I told her that I was worried that I had not been Christened. My Mum said we could arrange it before the operation, if I wanted. I said that I wasn’t certain. I didn’t think it right to be Christened as an insurance policy if I didn’t fully believe. In the event, I decided not to and that I would rely on my personal faith.

The operation was successful, although excruciatingly painful and, while I didn’t realise this for years, caused me recurring depression. Thanks to my family and friends, I had wonderful support, but even they didn’t realise how much this affected me.

And so I carried on through life until I faced a similar situation at the age of 50 when one Friday morning I woke up with terrible stomach cramp. The pain increased through the day and luckily Mrs Z made me go to the doctor by driving me there and, after he referred me as an emergency case, drove me to hospital where I was admitted. The following 36 hours were a blur of pain as various tests were carried out, but on the Sunday morning I was told by a doctor they were going to operate immediately to find out what was wrong.

I felt like that 13-year-old again, but now I had no one with me. All I could do was phone Mrs Z for a brief chat, but had no chance to see her or contact any other family. I was totally unprepared and this time it really did look ominous, but still I did not feel it was time leave as I had much I needed to do. Within half an hour I was down in theatre.

Again, I came through it. Good old Crohn’s disease had played its part once more with scar tissue from that previous operation causing my gut to twist with dangerous results. As soon as I was partially conscious, I asked a nurse to phone to tell Mrs Z, who this time nursed me back to health.

And so I carry on, grateful for my life, but, as we grow older, inevitably we become acquainted with death through loss. Losing my Dad suddenly in 1995 hit me hard. In recent years, saying sudden goodbyes to our two ageing cocker spaniels – Felix after having a fit caused by a brain condition and Bosley on the operating table after the discovery of inoperable cancer – was tough.

Sitting with my Mum as she drifted away in hospital over the course of a week in early 2015 was almost surreal. We knew it would happen and I’m glad I was there with her. In fact, during her long illness, I learnt the value of simply being with someone with no external interference, distraction, noise or conversation: just sitting in silence together. I treasure those times.

These experiences and the prospect of death have taught me the value of life and how lucky I am.

I do not fear death as I did when I was 13, although I still don’t feel it is time to leave. I wonder whether I ever will.

Posted in a musing, Crohn's disease.

Dragged down a hole in the ground into hell

My baby teeth must have been stubborn and I remember my Mum taking me to the health clinic on the Bath Road, Hounslow for one to be extracted under anaesthetic.

The strong memory of that day, some 50 years ago, is the weird dream I had after the mask was placed over my face to knock me out with gas: I was watching myself being dragged down an underground tunnel in a scene mixing our Snakes and Ladders game board with Alice in Wonderland.

This disturbing image remains with me and, over my teenage and adult years, after surfacing from anaesthetic for a number of different operations – it’s not a hobby, honestly – I have often wondered whether these were glimpses of insanity. In fact, I used to fear going mad.

I don’t fear insanity any more, not for myself.

However, I wonder whether I see insanity around me.

I see people who I thought were reasonable and well-balanced tearing themselves apart with their hatred for others, simply because other people hold a different view.

It is dangerous to assume that people with other views do not want to reach the same results that we want.

It is even more dangerous to lump together all people who have a certain belief or thought into a single evil stereotype.

Disappointment, frustration and anger are both reasonable and necessary.

Hatred is not: it is insanity.

Posted in a musing.

30th May 2017

At Junior School, I used to write the date at the top of the page in my diary before writing about what I’d done over the weekend just passed.

Being the 1960s, I liked writing 196- and was quite concerned at the end of 1969 when I realised that the 6 would change to 7, not even thinking of 8 and 9 to follow or the change from 19 to 20.

Many years, weekends and days have passed and now seem to be passing even faster.

I enjoy all times of year, but April and May do always bring special cheer to me as everything wakes up in England and the days grow longer, brighter and warmer.

This year I made a special effort to enjoy each day so that these months did not fly past without me realising.

And now we are at the 60th of the 61 days which will soon be a memory. I felt a little sad this morning before going out for the first walk of the day.

Then the sun came out and I exchanged greetings with nine people and I realised that here was another lovely day to enjoy, just like yesterday and tomorrow.

 

 

Posted in a musing.

Grateful for a holiday life

Today is the 13th anniversary of moving to Ilfracombe in North Devon.

After locking the door of our house in Windsor, we posted the keys through the letterbox and set off in our two cars, with our cocker spaniel, Felix, wondering how our adventure would unfold.

Not much went to plan, as we forgot that life throws challenges at us from all angles, but what is most important is that we would not want to live anywhere else.

I have discovered the importance of solitude, which I need to recharge my energy after dealing with people. And there’s no better place in the world for a solitary walk.

We celebrated today, as we do each year, at Maddy’s Fish and Chip Restaurant followed by a walk along the beach from Woolacombe to Putsborough and back. The beach, sea, sand, sun with a dog, fortified by a cup of tea half-way.

Heaven.

How grateful we are to be so blessed. We never take it for granted.

Posted in a musing, Ilfracombe.

Three words for 2017: Face | Laugh | Breathe

I chose three words to focus on in 2016: irreverent, kind, treasure.

How did I do? I was still far too serious, have more work to do on being kind, but certainly do treasure everything in my life more than I ever have.

How and why have I chosen my three words for 2017?

Face ~ Laugh ~ Breathe

Face

For many people 2016 has been a year for hiding: among groups and factions, behind symbols and flags, and covering insecurity by mercilessly mocking anyone with an opposing point of view.

Yes, it has been a traumatic year and there are many reasons for being unsure or afraid, as across the world faction confronts faction in battles that no one can win.

I feel that, more than ever, I must show my face.

On my personal social media profiles you will always see my face.

The more we show our faces, speak our own thoughts and shares our real feelings, the more we can truly connect with other people, irrespective of nationality, culture or religion.

I believe showing and seeing faces helps us face up to reality, which often presents countless shades of grey rather than the sharp division of yes, no; right, wrong; right, left; or other convenient but unrealistic choices.

As we feel more confidence in our own thoughts and feelings, we can start to put aside dogma and the deception of slogans accepted as truth after endless parroting, and take part in real discussion, where arguments from all sides are considered and debated seriously rather than rejected simply because of their origins.

It does not mean we will agree with everyone or like everyone or that everyone will agree with or like us: that is impossible. But if we want to improve our world, perhaps we can focus on progress rather than dissent.

We do not need to like everyone, but we do not need to fight them.

Nor will we like everything that we have to face, whether involving politics, lifestyle, diet, behaviour or anything else.

But we must face it.

Laugh

Is now a time to laugh?

Some of the events we read about and see in the news say no, but what is a world without laughter?

Laughing lifts my spirits. It doesn’t make my problems go away, but it does make them more bearable.

Sometimes a laugh is necessary in the darkest moments to remind us that we are human and that there is always hope.

Laughing refreshes me, giving new energy to face difficulties ahead.

I need to laugh.

Breathe

Over the past couple of years, I have become increasingly overwhelmed by things, ordinary things. It was almost a feeling of breathlessness, as things seemed to be filling every space, displacing the air.

I am grateful that in my house we no longer buy Christmas presents. We don’t need more things. In fact, over the Christmas holidays I have sorted out more things that I don’t need.

The less I have, the more space I have to breathe.

Being outside, in the wide open, with nothing but myself, is exhilarating.

I don’t need anything to stop and stand and appreciate the world around me . . . and breathe.

Ready, steady, go

Those are my three words and I’m working on them already.

Do you have any words for the year ahead? Good luck with your chosen focus.

Posted in a musing.
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