Sunday, 27 April 2014

Stumbling backwards into the future one cliché at a time

Cliché - noun:  a word or phrase that has been used so often that it has become annoying. Often regarded as grammatically lazy and revealing of a lack of imagination ... I use them frequently - time after time, in fact.

Some clichés, however, are  worth repeating - which undoubtedly promotes their designation as clichés. But if you think about it, a cliché is a cliché precisely because it states something in a succinct, often poetic and memorable way. We hear the words and instantly 'get' their meaning. I like clichés when used sparingly (I suspect a 'sparingly used cliché' is an oxymoron. But I don't care. In my grammatically challenged world, I also like to wantonly split the infinitive. Wanton splitting meaning to split with careless abandon - gulp! What a lot of words. I prefer a lazy economy of vocabulary and moving on from splitting infinitives, if a cliché fits the bill - as that one just did - then I use it. Why not?)

Deep in the mire of this cliché ridden blog, it's about time I cut to the chase and got to the point, so here, struggling to the surface, is my cliché of the day -

'Seasons come and seasons go'

Well they do. Don't they? This is clichéd perfection. Five words that state the truth that time passes. Slowly if you are young and impatient. Far too fast if you are accelerating towards an older age that lies just over an uncomfortably close horizon.

I see the seasons pass. And feel their passing. That horizon is getting closer. Four-legged-friend is feeling the passing of the seasons too. He's nearly five. Five! Where has the time gone? His joints ricochet - click, click, click ... clunk - in his early morning stretch. And he snarls in tired exasperation at his younger, bouncier (so very, very much bouncier) nephew. Bertie Baggins is as acute at the fine art of pestering - incessantly - as he is physically cute. Her pesters when all Four-legged-friend wants to do is lie in the sun and sleep.


Is a paradox - we don't have enough time to get enough sleep when we are young and the seasons pass slowly, but when we are old and the seasons pass in a hurry but paradoxically we find ourselves with plenty of time, we no longer need a lot of sleep. This seems deeply unfair.

Seasons, like the need to sleep, go and KEEP ON GOING (which looks like a very Piglet-ish, as in A A Milne-ish, sort of a thing to say. Or to write for that matter.)

So what are we to do with all (optimistically assuming that there will be many of them) the seasons that lie ahead? Are the best behind us? Have we, now in middle age, had the best years of our lives? Do we constantly look fondly backwards and stumble ahead into an uncertain diminishing future?

Or do we reflect on the fun behind and plan for more fun in the future? (Optimism! Again - from me! Utterly amazing! Sarcasm ... now that's normal!)  How do we stop the path ahead from taking a sad downward trajectory? (Hah! I knew Pessimism couldn't be too far away). The glass-half-empty (i.e. the Procrastinating Pessimist) in me suspects that it is impossible to make the path veer happily upwards. But if I can keep it level that would be an achievement. We none of us know what lies ahead. Newspapers are filled with the hazards of too much alcohol, too little exercise and even the detrimental effects of the sugar-load in chocolate - killjoys all! But they force us to contemplate our mortality.

And what are we to do with the mortality that we have left? This question is midlife crisis in a nutshell (and yes, I just clocked up another cliché. And another.)

Certainly, there are things that I would like to do. Things that I aspire to. Things that would bring me joy. There's the little snag though - the me, as in things that bring me joy. Compromise will be required because I choose to share my life with others and yes, perhaps I will once again force myself to strap planks to my feet and find a way of not being bottom down a mountain. That isn't a typo. I spend a lot of time skiing on my bottom, skis at alarming angles across the slope and sticks clutched rigor-mortis like in my frozen hands. If I try to share their joy in reckless alpine sliding, maybe I can justify asking them to share mine - the occasional trip to an art gallery perhaps, or a West End play.

Compromise matters.

Having enough money to do the things we aspire to also matters.

But it is who we choose to share our remaining mortality with that matters the most. Surround ourselves with the people that we love and who make us laugh and that path ahead will have a good chance of being level. So I'll say it again - one step on the way to creating a good cliché, perhaps - it isn't what time we have left, but who we choose to share it with that matters. To walk with friends; to share meals with friends; to talk to friends (including much loved old friends who live too far away to see, but who understand the details and history that make us who we are); to laugh with friends and to care about our friends - this way lies the secret of happiness. (Before anyone worries, I include family under the umbrella of 'friends.')

So, in a nutshell (is this the last cliché? - I suspect not), seasons do come and they do also go. To capture the going and live it well would be good. Wouldn't it?

All this optimism is making me nervous.

What would Littlest do?

Hug a tree - naturally, with the help of a friend

Find something beautiful and stand in the middle of it

Make a wish

And love someone


Here are my five nuggets of wisdom - together they are my key to a contented future:

  1. Eat dark chocolate (that's an easy one!)
  2. Drink red wine (also easy!)
  3. Eat less of everything but particularly reduce intake of the wrong fats and cakes. Eat more vegetables (does carrot cake count?)
  4. Take more exercise (Bertie Baggins and Four-legged-friend will be pleased. Well - hmmm -  Bertie Baggins will be pleased)
  5. Smile. Tell someone you love them every day. Procrastinate positively. And learn how to count ...
Continuing then - 6. would be if you smoke or use drugs stop. And 7. which is my favourite number (yes ... I am still a child at heart. Blue is my favourite colour. And I have too many favourite flavours of ice cream to count), would be trust yourself a little bit more every day. And 8. would be to keep a pet (ticked that one off already!) 9. would be to take time to stop and breathe. And 10. would be to find some infallible way of remembering friends' birthdays; phoning them when they are sad or ill; and never forgetting which friend is gluten-free, or doesn't eat meat, or prefers not to be in the same room as your dogs.

If like me you are stumbling backwards into the future and are feeling a bit gloomy about it,  these two things should in turn make you feel ashamed and then banish your pessimism

  1. pinch yourself hard and tell yourself that growing old is a privilege denied to most of the peoples in this world.
  2. Put on Pharrell Williams' Happy' and phone a friend.
  3. (!!!) Hug your child and ask for some tips on learning to count