Bridge Over Troubled Water


January is the cruellest month – full of good intentions gone bad and littered with dust covered New Year’s resolutions lists. A hundred and one packets of seeds that I was going to sort out still lie scattered across the veranda table; my spice cupboard still contains bottles of herbs with best before dates going back to 19-voetsek (a few taken out to remind me to throw them away are dotted around the kitchen not having quite made it into the bin); all the crap taken out of Alex’s room to make way for his visit over Christmas has been returned to his room and is awaiting for some sort of action by me; and herb seedlings languish in their trays, bought in early January when I still had the desire to replenish plant pots in the courtyard. And after resolving to do away with them, on-line card games have reasserted themselves in an attempt to distract me from doing whatever it is that I should be doing.

However, not all is doom and gloom. I have been exercising every morning now for about 2 months and eating (and drinking) more healthily since Christmas. I’m enjoying the benefits of both so I think it is safe to say that these are new good habits that I have managed to introduce into my daily routine. I just have to sort out the rest of the day.

The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience…not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life.

Leo Tolstoy

I suppose, in a way, it has become impossible for me to continue to live with procrastination and a lack of focus. It’s making me disgruntled and the need to change has become stronger than the desire to remain the same. However the problem lies not so much in the doing, but in knowing what to do.

In response to my previous post, Judy’s sister, Wendy, sent us some links to a series of Daily Mail online articles written by Sir Muir Gray, Former Chief of Knowledge for the NHS on how older people can live healthy lifestyles. I have no idea what a chief of knowledge is but the articles are quite informative.

In one he offers some insights into how to get on well with life in your later years and proclaims A BUSY LIFE IS A HAPPY LIFE.

He points out that adjusting to retirement can be rather difficult for some (no shit Sherlock on that).

 “Yes, part of the time should certainly be filled doing the things you have always wanted to do but have not had the time to do when working. But research has proven that continuing to interact and work with others is very good for you as well as for them — maintaining and improving your intellectual functioning. The way it does this is not clear, but it may stem from the need to argue and defend your point of view as well as the need to organise your thoughts.

It may also be the interaction with other people that stimulates the mind, and that the increased motivation and morale which results from this improves how you think and how you feel. Working to boost the wellbeing of others is particularly rewarding”.

He suggests a few things we might want to do, such as:

  • Work as a volunteer on an issue that you feel strongly about, whether that’s a local charity that always needs more help or a global cause such as campaigning for the environment.
  • Be your own boss – start a small enterprise.
  • Spend more time helping your children and grandchildren, and if your own are far away, help someone else’s grandchildren who live near you but whose own grandparents are also far away.
  • Every school needs people to help pupils with reading and arithmetic, and the wisdom that mature volunteers can bring is invaluable.

I can’t argue with that but I would prefer to use the term “engaged” rather than busy. Busy implies “on-the-go” whereas engaged is more about giving something your full attention. Ideally I would like to find something that I can commit to wholeheartedly, that would make me a better person and allow me to grow old not only with a sense of purpose but a sense of fun as well. As Michele commented on my last blog post “now is the time to care for ourselves, make a difference and enjoy all opportunities and celebrations”.

When I was a teenager my father used to drive me crazy when he would tell me not to get so worked up about all the inequalities and injustices in the world because there was nothing I could do about them. Fortunately that was one piece of advice that I never paid much heed to. I like to think that I was a person who gave a damn when something was wrong. And I like to think I can be that person again. I’ll keep you posted.

And Michele, with regard to celebrations, bring on the wine or champagne. I love this description of intoxication in Michael Pollan’s book Cooked:

 “By the time I got down to the bottom of the glass …… I could feel the warm, suffusing glow of alcohol wash over me. There’s really nothing quite like that first soft spring breeze of intoxication.  Keep drinking all you want, but you will never get it back. Nothing has changed, you’re still the same guy sitting at the same kitchen table, and yet everything feels just a little different: Several degrees less literal. Leavened. And whether or not this angle of mental refreshment offers anything of genuine value, anything worth saving for the consideration of more ordinary hours, it does seem to open up, however briefly, a slightly less earthbound and more generous perspective on life”.

It’s all about balance, I suppose, and for a while now my life has been a bit out of kilter – too much spent faffing around the house and the garden, and grocery shopping – dealing with trivia and playing online card games because that’s what you do when there are weightier issues to be dealt with, like what should I be doing with the rest of my life.

And by the way, today was a day just like this – I wasn’t at all busy, but I was engaged!

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

Raymond Carver

if I've devised 101 ways to prepare eggs, spinach is a close second

if I’ve devised 101 ways to prepare eggs, spinach is a close second

red necked spurfowl mama and her chick

red necked spurfowl mama and her chick

rufous sparrowhawk eyeing my birdies

rufous sparrowhawk eyeing my birdies

little willy wagtail taking a breather on our steps

little willy wagtail taking a breather on our steps

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3 Responses to Bridge Over Troubled Water

  1. lulurob says:

    This really gave me a kick up the backside….I read it last night just before I went to sleep and decided to tackle the spice cupboard today. I did and 3 other kitchen cupboards. So far today I haven’t played any online card games as I usually do and have a great sense of accomplishment. Thanks Cathy! 🙂

  2. michele harpur says:

    I feel so virtuous now cause I did clean the spice cupboard – first for about 10 years so know about the use-by dates!! Instead of balance I use the term ‘effectiveness’. Work/life effectiveness. If I can clean that spice cupboard in half the time as someone else, then I can recline with my book for half the day!! Go gettem Cathy!

  3. Cathy says:

    Hey Louise and Michele, what’s up with the spice cupboards? You both put me to shame, so I started pulling out a few things that have seen better days. One was a Jamie Oliver gammon rub, bought from Woolies, bb 27 NOV 2005. It still looks and smells good, and must I really toss those dried chillies I bought in China in 2011? I’ve put them back until I can decide.

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