How important are Memorial Services?

Recently I attended a funeral for a friends mum, actually her step mum. A gracious women who earned the right to be called a mum in every sense of the word. My story today is not about this lady, although her story should be told, but about the process of her passing. Sadly as we age, so do, our family and friends and as we attend more funerals we notice a reduction in our circle of love and support.
The lady I refer to was nearing 103 when she finally said goodbye to her time on earth. Of course there had been time for her family and friends to mentally prepare for her passing. This does not reduce the sadness of the loss when it finally comes. I have in recent years attended a couple of funerals for very close friends which were extremely painful experiences at the time, but as the months go by I am remembering the time, more for its beauty rather than its sadness. The words that stayed with me the most during this particular service was that of the celebrant. She mentioned with a positive glow that it was pleasing to see, so many people attending the service for someone this age. I looked around and thought to myself there was only around 30 people in the room, which seemed like a small number to me. I then wondered to myself how many funerals must occur with fewer or sadly no people in attendance. The celebrant went on to say some beautiful words and reiterated this fine ladies life admirably. My immediate thoughts were sad but slowly turned to joy when I realised the amount of young people in the room who had come to say goodbye and show their respect for the life this lady had lived. The words of kindness of the happy times they had spent together, the lessons learned, the valuable knowledge passed on to the younger persons in the room, who, on this day, had no concept of the life they were going to live. This was something positive to grab hold of. It was a brief moment where I personally found calm and happiness. Further to this, watching the slide show of photographs and hearing the contented sighs of those being reminded of good times, the joy in seeing their eyes light up when relating to a moment in their past, again this all brings a happiness to the day. Later in the day as I listened to the stories of her life, all told with animation and personal experience my thoughts were reinforced.

Admittedly I was not close to this lovely lady and therefore not absorbed by grief. I was lucky enough to experience these feelings in the here and now. So I ask those who are grieving now, if and when you are able, it may be worth revisiting this day. There is a happiness that can be found among the grief of losing a loved one. Time heals the pain and hopefully the good memories become the only memories. Once the grief becomes less dominant and we are able to think clearly once again there is much to value and reflect on. This is just my opinion, I personally think a memorial service is important. The form that service takes is of course a very personal one and should be the choice of those closest to the loved one and any wishes of the loved one should be considered deeply. Having said that I also believe attendance is not something everyone can emotionally deal with and therefore there should be no criticism of one not attending a service. There is no right or wrong in how one deals with their own personal grief.

We who remain behind can only hope we have touched or influenced at least one younger person in the life we have led.

Seniors Embracing Technology

Too many options with technology – Is this the problem?

I wrote about this subject in one of my first blog posts. The only thing changed since then is more technology and more confusion. It is such a catch 22 situation. If you don’t keep up, life can be quite difficult however to keep up it is quite stressful. I am not sure about anyone else, but I continually hear myself saying things like, ” I am over technology” or “No more passwords” and continually feeling frustrated at my lack of knowledge. The thing is, it is so much a part of our day to day living that we cannot avoid it. Have you noticed how whenever you buy a new appliance there is very little instruction included in the package? You must go on line and everything will be explained. That is true, everything you want is there but unfortunately I have to keep going back to google to find out what all the symbols and abbreviated words mean before I can go on.

There is API, ATM, BSS, CPU, DHCP, DSl, GMAC, IDS, IMAP, LAN, MDF, POP, RAM, SDN, SSID, VC, VPN, WAN, WPA and the list goes on forever. Some of the instructions you receive assume you have done a software engineers degree before buying the product. If I was to rewrite the instructions in language I could understand I am sure it would be 4 pages longer.

We have a security system at home, this is a good thing, and it works we think, The technician installs the equipment, presses a million buttons on the mobile phone and away he goes. We are left with a screen which shows us four different views. He tells us all the wonderful things it will do. We know how to turn the alarm on and off. This is all great and we are happy with what we have paid for. Warning! do not change anything or press the wrong button by mistake, all hell will break loose, and you are left looking at dots and dashes and meaningless symbols until you call the trusty technician for instruction. This is just typical with everything we own now. Sometimes you can be lucky and press the right symbol without even knowing it. You pat yourself on the back and think how clever you are, until the next time when a blank screen makes you question,” is that the right button” Don’t get me started on our own personal motor vehicle advisor Siri who manages the radio/phone/music/GPS and much more I am sure. If you do not speak Siri language forget it. Then there is Google Home which constantly talks back to me and refuses to do what I ask. The only positive statement I can make is to marvel in the middle of the night when the world is in thrown into darkness, I need no lights to find my way around home as it has its own navigational pathway of blinking lights and beeping sounds on every apparatus I own.

I must say here, I would not wish to go back in time before now. I am privileged and I appreciate just how much knowledge technology has bought and how much easier my life has been made by it. What I will say is I envy the younger generations ease with the constant changing evolution of technology. I hope I live for another 20 years to see what is coming next.

Conversations as Seniors – Writing v Verbal.

Articulating oneself is not always easy especially as we age.

Recently I heard one of my daughters relay an old conversation of ours onto someone else. The subject matter of which we were referring to was of a very emotional content. What amazed me when I heard her version was the number of times my words were misinterpreted. Hearing it back I can understand this, as my emotions controlled my words and articulation left the building. Interestingly I am aware of this when people talk in person and understand totally how arguments develop, however the exchange of words I am referring to was all in writing.It highlighted to me that behind the words we choose to write, there are a lot of meanings that are not conveyed to the recipient. I have always thought this when verbalising conversations and for that reason had relied on writing as a medium. More extensive words can be used and more time taken to exchange. Sadly I now believe I am mistaken.

One would think the written word would make it easy to remove some of the ambiguity of the English language. I find when I write I start with an idea, or quote or statement and add my thoughts. What happens though once I start rereading,editing, and interpreting, quite often a new angle or a new perspective is reached. I then change things a little and go through the process of editing again. Writing for a blog, a journal or an essay is completely different to having a written personal dialogue with someone. There are so many factors which effect human interractions. Generational differences, environmental influences, experienced behaviour with the subject matter and the actual timing of the exchange.In general communication is often very flawed. This is not news to most of us, especially those of us in our senior years. We have all had many occasions over our lifetime when we have regretted what we have said as it was fuelled by anger or fear and even love. Equally there are many times we wish we had said more or offered more but at the time were guided by different influences.

Articulating what one wants to say is hard and listening to what is being said is a skill few of us have. I have completed several communication and training courses and therefore should be good at relaying and receiving but when it comes to my family or emotional issues I fail miserably in verbalising or writing my thoughts clearly. My emotions are always heightened and my need to keep things calm are always present. The result of this is compound. When you are worried about what to say your mind is occupied and you are not listening as you should. You are constantly thinking how I can convey my thoughts without sounding mean, judgemental or thoughtless. In the process of “being so thoughtful” you may in fact be missing the whole point of the conversation. You are constantly behind the conversation. In personal situations the effect of this for many people may result in less conversation, less understanding and in many cases more arguments and more distance.

These days we no longer wait a week for the letter to arrive and then savour every word written, we no longer use the telephone to talk and listen for hours. Family members and friends are often busy with multiply commitments thats time together is often infrequent and sadly I have noticed in recent times even emailing is becoming redundant outside of business needs. We are texting, using messenger, instagram and facebook to communicate. There are only so many words you can use in a text and as our fingers are not as nimble as those younger than us it is not always an easy task. I will admit face-time and zoom meetups are a quiet blessing if you can master the technological problems that come with them.

I wish I had an answer to this accelerating situation in todays’ modern world but unfortunately it eludes me.

An unexpected gift.

For Christmas this year I received a set of inspirational and questioning journals from my youngest daughter. She knows I like to write and thought this would help with some ideas for my blog.

To be completely honest, I was not sure at the time she was right. It is not something I would ever have considered buying for myself. I am not someone who reads inspirational quotes or positive thoughts for the day, however I do find human behaviour fascinating and I expect looking at ones own behaviour is a good place to start. Trying to keep an open mind I started to explore the journals. I was pleasantly surprised and quite amazed at some of the questions posed. Questions that I had pondered in the past but not spent time investigating. One question that was asked implored me to think and explore my thoughts.

What do you want most in life?

The burning question that keeps the world turning. The question we ask ourselves continuously throughout our lives. The question we at times spend way too long pondering and then other times we push it aside for another day as it is too hard to answer.

Now getting close to 70 I can reflect on this and answer it fairly easily. Not with-standing  world issues, which I would hope applies to most people, to eliminate poverty, eradicate violence, protect all children, accept all beings for who they are and discover amazing things. We want to have a sustainable world in which to live and in an ideal world we would have peace. Who does not want this?

I believe to answer this question as an individual the answer is dependent on time and conditions within our lives. What I want most now differs to what I wanted in years gone by.  I only speak for myself here.

Overall – Late teen years I wanted freedom, independence, and excitement – personal level – I wanted  love and laughter in my life.

Overall – In my 20’s I wanted stability after a childhood of instability. Regular income, loving family  and good friends- personal level– I wanted my marriage to be strong and I wanted children.

Overall – In my 30’s I wanted to purchase our own home and I wanted safety, stability and a good future for my children – personal level – I wanted to be a good, honest, and approachable mother.  I wanted to improve my education and improve my ability to earn a higher income.

Overall – In my 40’s I wanted financial security and more time for fun and relaxation. Time  and money for Travel. Success for my children both in education and career – personal level – I wanted to be liked and valued by my family.

Overall – In my 50’s I wished for improved health services. I  wanted  longevity in our business – personal level. I wanted to fix my children and husband who were all struggling with ill health.

Overall – In my 60’s  I wanted Good Health, financial security, more foreseeable possibility of retirement – personal level . I wanted our life to slow down and to be easier.

Overall – Now approaching my 70’th year- I want people to learn from the experience of a pandemic. I want people to stop blaming the government for every shortcoming in their life and to take responsibility for their own actions. ( a sweeping statement, I know, a discussion for another blog). On a very personal level I just want to live long enough to be able to enjoy my retirement with my husband, I want good health for myself and my family members and my friends.  I want laughter, excitement, I want to be able to try new things, travel to new places and experience life in general.  

On Reflection

On an introspective level, I would like to stop bitching and complaining about people and situations at hand. I have noticed as I grow older, I have less tolerance and I am more bitter and less compassionate in my thoughts. I am guessing this is just a tiredness we get after a lifetime of pushing our own agenda’s, trying  always to be right or knowledgeable or simply trying to be noticed.  It is not a good look and not a productive way to live.  It is something I need to work on.

“If everything went the way we wanted, soon we would no longer have anything to write about, nothing to quide our daily thoughts.”

Paulo Coelho’s Blog

Birds out my window today.

I am sitting watching out the window as I write my blog. The day is dawning and the birds are waking. I like and respect animals but am not what you would call a passionate animal lover. I have had my fair share of cats and dogs, experienced owning white mice, and cute little rabbits, gone through the silkworm process and visited many zoos and animal parks.

Since retiring to the Blue Mountains I have noticed birds. I have always scoffed a little at birdwatchers wondering how they could be interested in something that just flits from tree to tree. I realise now how my ignorance hid from me the complexity and the beauty of these creatures.

A white Sulphur Crested Cockatoo flies past the window with his wide spread wings holding him afloat. He parks on a tree and calls his friends to join him. If I call to him with my cocky voice his yellow crown immediately stands high as he turns to stare and then squawks as if to say “you are interrupting, wait your turn.” His majestic all powerful stance glorious against the natural colours of the trees.

Meanwhile I notice our resident Kookaburra and his baby search diligently for worms deep under the green lawn which sparkles from the tiny drops of water from the early morning dew. The mother working tirelessly to stifle the continuous cry of her reliant baby.

I look to my left to the Red Wattle Bird foraging for nector in buds of the grevillia plants. His familiar gutteral chortle filling the air. He is a very territorial bird and fights daily with the other birdlife to retain his home. A few months ago a he was followed relentlessly by his new baby. Today the baby is not seen as I guess he is now making his own way among the blooms of the many small bushes surrounding him.

I know from seeing this all unfold each day that the stunning red, yellow and blue colours of the Rosella’s just behind the house are scattered in the many trees waiting to descend to our balcony with their own distinct sound. They will sit along the rail whistling their melodic tunes with the hope of a handful of seed to enhance their diets.

Not far behind them will be the more graceful and brilliantly coloured Red and Green King Parrots. They are more patient than the others and will come close and look at you when they speak. Cautious at first but then demanding in their request for attention.

Further down the yard I see the distinct black and white of the Magpies foraging among the leaves and debris surrounding the bush. Religiously following the lawn mower gathering the worms as they come to the surface. The Magpie family comes and goes each season. They know our faces and respond immediately to my whistle. Swooping in from nowhere they glide in close knowing there is a handout not far away. It is interesting to watch when they have new babies. They collect the food in their mouth adding to the pile until it is bulging from their beak. It is then time to fly away to the nest where the squawking babies are waiting for them. They overload and quickly return for another round.

Last but certainly not least are my favourites when it comes to feeding. The little Butcher Birds are very cute, quick and silent. They fly high into the trees and sit patiently watching and waiting. When the coast is clear they very smoothly swoop and scoop the tiny morsel of food left for them. They are in and out before you notice.

Some others worth mentioning but not in view this morning are the Lorikeets, Brown Dove, Bower Bird, Plovers , Black Cockatoo and a Tawny Frogmouth. Not viewed but definitley heard is The Big Owl.

I spend much time just watching the birds as they wake, play and rest each day. Time spent watching them strip the bark off the trees or building their nests. Noticing how they go from bush to bush searching for nectar, chasing each other flying in and out of the many branches. At dusk you can see them gliding across the skies rich from the colours of the sunsets looking for a place to settle during the dark hours.

Complacency-Boredom

As a retired person I have more available time, as an older person living during the pandemic I have more idle hours to fill. Following I have written my thoughts on this situation. No expertise, no qualifications just what is in my head. 🤔

I refer back to an early blog “What will I do when I retire?” I wrote that blog with my own actions in mind and focused mainly on activities that I related to at the time. Covid has made me think more earnestly about what we do on a daily basis and how easily boredom can slip into our life and have a detrimental affect on some people. It is easy to become bored, it is easy to become complacent about your daily activities. Dictionary.com’s meaning of complacency is “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition etc.” I think this explains it very clearly but breaking it down a little and putting it into terms of actual life activities helped me to clarify.🤓

The first part is easy for me to identify, particularly during covid restrictions. Doing a jigsaw puzzle, doing my heritage investigations, reading a book or simply going for a walk.These activities were pleasureable and gave me the security of knowing I was safe in my own home.They quickly became my norm and were only broken by the necessity of housework or shopping on line. 🙂

The second part of the dictionary meaning is a little unnerving at first. I questioned what potential danger could these activities evoke. The answer came with endured lengths of time of repetitively doing the same activities every day. The danger lies in the complacency of ones own thoughts and actions. When you are in a pattern without too much change it becomes easy to be habitual. Our life becomes boring. We could easily become disinterested in our surroundings which leads to more debilitating effects to our well being. As you become more bored your life becomes less active and your brain less stimulated. You talk less, you laugh less and more and more creativity and interests die. It becomes easy to not make an effort, to not make plans, to not look forward. If we do not change our routines, explore new avenues, take risks and try new things our brains become less stimulated and more vulnerable to negative thoughts. Of course there is nothing wrong with boredom, it is a normal emotion and it is not harmful unless of course it becomes excessive and interferes with ones normal daily life and this where the danger lives. 😦

I do suspect if you have an interesting hobby you possibly will not have this problem, but if you find yourself increasingly idle try something new. If you do not have any specific interest maybe look back at what you liked doing as a young person and see how that fits into your retired lifestyle. This would not have worked for me as I worked from a very young age and did not really develop any specific hobbies other than being involved in some sports. As I age those particular sports are not appropriate. I do however like long easy walks and on line music exercise classes so I am trying to become more consistent with that. I have listing here some suggestions(not mind boggling) just simple actions to minimise boredom or complacency and things that activate our brains. 😀

  • Cooking-reinvent the way you cook, try new foods. If you have no one at home to cook for bake a cake or make some cookies for your neighbour or elderly friend and invite them over for a cuppa. (covid permitted) Make some fun cookies for the neighbourhood children.
  • Craft-Learn a new skill or two. There are many tutorials on line. knitting, crocheting, origami, macrame, scrapbooking, sculpting, ceramics, painting etc the list is endless.
  • Sorting– photos, memorabilia, kitchen cupboards, clothing, garage, sheds, music collections We all need to declutter and sort. Do it slowly so it is enjoyable not a chore.
  • Photographing– I became bored while taking my daily walk, so I decided to photograph specific things. I chose a colour and with my trusty smart phone I walked and searched for that colour. You would be amazed at what you see. Each day I changed the colour or the theme and my walks became interesting again. I posted my photo’s on facebook which resulted in interaction with friends. Use your smart phone or camera and photograph whatever you like, your home, the streets surrounding you, fungi, trees, flowers, pictures, food, shapes use your imagination.
  • Writing-this is what I chose and the subjects are endless. I chose to put my thoughts on line but you do not have to. Start a journal, each day write down what you are thinking. It is habit forming however not boring as the subject matter changes everyday when you are forced to think of something to put down on paper. Nobody is reading it unless you want them to so write whatever crap comes to mind. Reading it back is often fun and thought provoking.
  • Planning-even though covid has momentarily changed our freedom we can still plan for the future. go online and plan the trip of a lifetime, you may never do it but it does not hurt to dream and its fun to map it out, and at the same time you are finding lots of information about other countries.
  • Games-mind games, computer games, board games, card games or do puzzles. There are many both on line and probably some gathering dust in your cupboards. They keep your mind active and if you have someone to play with all the better. If not challenge yourself to better your skills or beat your own score.
  • Meet new people-Join a book club, a walking group, a community centre or simply say hi to your neighbours or local shopkeepers. Go to a bingo group or a dance class or join a bowls club. A few words to a stranger can make your day. Some of these things are difficult during covid restrictions however if you are reading this you have access to on line so be brave start a social media page and finds some new friends. There are many senior groups filled with people just like yourself. It could be just 5 minutes a day and it could change your life.
  • Pampering-this is something we forget to do, whether male or female we all deserve to spoil ourselves. The obvious is a long luxurious bath, a hot chocolate and a good book, a home facial, a cup of tea while sitting on the verandah listening to your favourite music, relax with a heat-pack on those aching bones, watch a movie or better still watch a comedy routine, paint your nails, watch the footy.
  • Mens/Womens sheds– of course we are talking post covid but definitely something for those who have worked hard all of their lives and not had time to develop a hobby. From what I have heard and read they give people a purpose and are a great way to meet new friends. Research on line as they are popping up in many places.
  • Yoga,Meditation,Pilates,Exercise.- Whether male or female there a on line classes for everyone. No effort as you are in your own home, nobody to see you, no cost just simple movement which is the most important thing our ageing bodies need.
  • Hydo-Water activities– another post coved activity. Local pools have lots of classes for seniors with special classes or simply do some easy stretches and leisurely swimming
  • Language Course-learn a new language on line. I have friends who have done just this and are really enjoying the process.
  • Pets– If you don’t have one and you live alone consider adopting a pet. The reasons are obvious, companionship, responsibility, fun and caring. No negatives here and no time to be bored or complacent. They wont let it happen.

I hope you have fun finding your new or renewed interest. If you have a story to tell of how you fill the hours let me know in the comments. 🌻😃

Living alone, loneliness and its challenges.

I am basing this blog only on the knowledge of relatives and friends I know who are in either or both of these situations. I am not assuming that every person who lives alone is suffering. One can live alone and not be lonely, one can live with many but battle with loneliness.

Living alone has some really obvious and positive benefits. One can manage their space to cater for all of their own likes and dislikes. They can run with a schedule or not. They do not have to be considerate of someone else’s feelings, their moods or their preferences. The work load is less if living alone and the grocery bill is cheaper. They can wear daggy clothes or no clothes. They can eat or not eat, sleep or not sleep, cry and curse at whomever they want and turn the volume up whenever the moods takes them. These are things that those living in a family or a relationship sometimes envy of those who live alone.

I would like to point out the numerous negatives many of us never think about.

Putting aside the unusual state a pandemic creates, imagine if you are single, unable to work or are maybe self employed and working alone from home. Consider someone who suffers from anxiety or has social phobias. Your life may be like living with a lot of the covid restrictions but not only for one or two years but for a lifetime. Consider a person in this situation could easily find themselves with no reason to actually use their own voice. The mobile phone has minimised the amount of actual calls one needs to make. Texts are a common method of dialogue now. A person in this situation does not need to leave the house as we can order our groceries, clothes, computers, stationery and actually most goods online without the need to speak. No contact drop off has eliminated the need to see or hear another human being. There are many single people in this situation. The need for human interaction becomes minimised and eventually eliminated. This is quite sad and disturbing and quite real.

Again very sad that this situation continues and can actually become a mental illness or can result in medical complications. With no accountability to others we have no need to take responsibility for our own health or wellbeing. There is no one who will question them, encourage them or help to motivate them. When one isolates we tend to think our view is the most important and this is totally wrong in my mind. We need to listen to other opinions, other ideas, otherwise we become self indulgent and therefore selfish. It is important to get out and to communicate. Working, mingling or joining sporting or activity groups puts more of a perspective on our opinions. It is vital to learn and to grow as a person.

Then you have those who are surrounded by relatives and/or friends, are members of clubs and are continually active but unknown to others they feel totally alone. Sometimes people keep busy to avoid being alone or avoid thinking about themselves. They often appear very in control or very happy with life but in fact are not. For many reasons they have not connected personally with anyone. Maybe they do not feel special or needed or loved. Often people feel misunderstood or judged. Maybe they are insecure with different aspects of themselves. I am sure there are many reasons and many times people in this situation rarely express these feelings and therefore their contacts believe they are ok, leaving the problem unsolved and the feeling of being alone continues.

Of course we have all felt alone at times. That birthday that you insisted on not celebrating but then on the day you receive no acknowledgement and you feel alone and a little sad. That time you decide not to go to the party and then are sorry you are sitting home alone on a Saturday night. Maybe your partner is away for a week and you feel moments of loneliness. I remember times when a major decision had to be made and there was no one else there to help. One feels alone and neglected during these situations. The main difference here is you will probably be laughing or commiserating with another human the following day. Time will pass quickly and you would have moved onto new things to keep you occupied and sane. That may not be the result for those who are totally isolated on a long term basis.

The Covid-19 virus has certainly highlighted the need for human touch and the sound of the human voice. The need to feel needed and the desire to talk to people on a day to day basis. We can only hope that we all consider those who are still living day to day with restrictive lifestyles and where possible reach out to them just a little more than we have in the past.

What do you give a senior person as a gift.

It seems simple when we, being older people, say we don’t want gifts, we have everything we need. You may have read in a previous blog about my feelings about celebratory days. Therefore you would know I do not rate them as a priority in my life. Having said that I like to be spoiled the same as most people. To feel loved and pampered is so uplifting. It is a motivation to keep living, especially for those who are ill or those whose lives are sad and lonely.

The type of gift is what is important here. In todays world, particularly in our lucky country many of us own our home, have money to buy what we need and as we age we need a lot less. I only speak for myself in this post but I do think that if you give the following it will be appreciated.

Time is what we want, whether it be time spent with those who makes us happy or time spent doing the activities or the hobbies we enjoy. Time to be heard and time to reminisce. What we need is to feel respected and loved. By this I personally mean we like to think we are of value and our experiences and insights gained over the years have not been wasted.

I am sure a lot of us remember back when we were teenagers or young adults and thought of our parents as old, unwise, out of touch and intolerant. I can recall these feelings on some occassions.

I am now old enough to realise how thoughtless and even cruel that was. I did not value the time I had with the people who knew the most about me. I did not respect the experiences and the knowledge they gained through the multitude of changes they went through over there existence. I had not experienced the hardships of war and the depression. I had not lived through several pandemics I had not experienced death and destruction. I often think about the confusion of migration and the introduction of new cultures and traditions. In addition to this I wish I knew more about their lives as children, what toys they had, what they did with their friends. We will never ever really know what the world was like before we entered it, if we rely only on books or google to enlighten us. Talking to an older person will give you so much more colour, depth and yes maybe a little license will be taken with the story but it will be worth it. Life was so different in generations before us. It has only been in recent times that I have taken the time to think about this. What I do know is I now regret by own lack of insight.

Next time you are thinking what can I give grandma or the elderly neighbour or anyone for that matter, buy the chocolates, the flowers or the new appliance they may need but pair that offer with a visit, a phone call or an invite for coffee. The exchange will be more than worth it for you and I assure you the person receiving will value that time above everything else.

What is a successful life

Is there a difference between achievement and success

Ken and I have just had a discussion about the privilege of being able to sit out in our own garden with a bottle of wine warming ourselves in front of a pit fire chatting about anything and everything.The discussion turned to being proud of what we have achieved in life. Nothing like wine for a bit of self praise. Ken is a pretty humble guy so I found myself having to convince him that we have achieved a lot. I sat there listing what I believe are his achievements and he minimising each thing as normal and ordinary. He then proudly points out my achievements and I, maybe less than him, I write them off as ordinary.

What i want to discuss is what I believe is success. Bare with me here as this ramble is a bit self indulgent. Recently in a zoom discussion a group of friends were doing questions and answers. The question – What does success mean to you? Most answered happiness or financial security, a good career. I value those things and I do relate them to success. I had not really thought about the question beforehand and when I answered off the cuff I had to later query myself. My answer was, “Getting to this age and still being alive” Am I answering the same question or am I talking about my achievements? Is there a difference?

The dictionary definition of success is ” the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” an example of this may be,

A person has just walked to the end of the street with the specific purpose of getting to the end — success.

The dictionary definition of achievement is ” a thing done successfully with effort, skill or courage” the same example with a slight difference.

A person with only one leg has just walked to the end of the street with the specific goal of getting to the end—achievement

If we take these words literally we could be quietly destroying our confidence. We all have an aim or a purpose for each day of our life. We wake each day with a to do list and at the end of the day the tasks are not all completed. do we render ourselves as failures or do we consider ourselves successful with what we did finish.A negative person will head toward failure but a positive person will be successful. My belief is we are all successful in the fact that we are still functioning at the end of every single day. Life can be hard with many hurdles to jump. Every time we get to the other side of those obstacles we have achieved.

The reason we think we are not successful or feel we have not achieved comes from the reality that these words are often used to describe status. When we think of status we immediately relate to financial security, financial freedom, power or position, recognition and validity.

Many years ago I remember a day when I felt l had not achieved or been successful very much in my life. That day was a negative one and I decided after that to think a little more about what exactly was success. I thought about what was important to me as opposed to what everyone around me thought. I remember back to my mother and her last years. Unfortunately she had a difficult life and was still renting and struggling financially right up until her death. She was also ill and in pain so her last years were not happy. I remember thinking then that I did not want to be reliant on the government and I did not want to have the insecurity of not having a roof over my head so this thought process was my motivation to try to achieve some financial security.I feel an element of success because there was a purpose for getting to that position. It is however something that I have achieved but do not think about it as an achievement. I think about getting my accountants degree under quite difficult circumstances so I do count that as an achievement as it took courage and a whole lot of effort to obtain it. I am valued by my present employer and I count that as an achievement because I have learnt the skills to be good at what I do.

My husband worked for over 25years with a very large company with thousands of employees. When the company finally closed its doors he was the last person left to finalise everything. He was not the CEO or the financial guru, he was the warehouse manager and he was a dedicated, hard working, loyal employee who they trusted. Ken has been an amateur astronomer since he was a boy. He is well respected by his peers. He has co-authored two books on astronomy and co-authored and published other astronomy magazines. One annual publication has been produced 31 years running and is highly regarded in the industry.

Together we ran a successful small business for 18 years with loyal staff who are still our friends. Our customers openly praised our business and again some are still our friends. We did not become outrageously rich from this but certainly helped to gain some financial security in our old age.

Ken and I have been married for 52 years and we are happy with our lives. He has been my whole life since I was 16yrs old. He is my mentor, my security and my only love. We own our own home and we have travelled both local and overseas. Our achievement here is that we are still together we are still respectful of each other and we are still happy. We have 2 daughters who are still talking to us and hopefully will be active in our lives until the end. We are enjoying our retirement. We are not rich in money or famous, neither are we distinguished or decorated.

We are however very rich in life. I call this an ongoing successful existence with many achievements.

Have you thought about this question and what do you think is important?

Questioning how we Celebrate.

I want to pre-empt this ramble by saying that I, like most people enjoy the fact that traditional special days allow me the excuse to do something fun with people. I am sure my boss would not understand if I simply asked for a day off because I felt the need to celebrate. Public holidays give me a day off from work or house duties and other allocated days of celebration give me an excuse to eat more cake or to drink more wine. Often with the added pleasure of seeing my friends and families on these days. None of these are bad things and I am not about to advocate for the removal of any of these special occasions. Having said that I have never pushed heavily to celebrate these days because the reasons behind the allocation of these special days simply do not comply with my personal beliefs. Furthermore many of these events are so commercially driven that it makes me angry and disillusioned.

Birthdays

This should be the easiest to understand. We are born, we have no say in the matter, we have no control over how, when or why this occurs.The mother, in fact, is the hero on this day. She is the one is deserving, having spent many months carrying an extra load and doing all the preparatory work for us to enter the world. We then just pop out into the world after many months of complete loving protection. For for this hard work we get to celebrate one day a year for the next how ever many years we stay on this earth. Consider for roughly the next 20 years we still have no control over our lives, in fact it is our parents once again doing the hard yards in keeping us alive during this time. At this point in the discussion I think Mum and Dad should be having “The Birthday” celebration.

I will admit the next 20 years we may, and I emphasis may, earn the right to be recognised and the right to feel appreciated. These are the years some of the human race finally figure out that we have reached adulthood and maybe it is time to stand on our own two feet. We have to start making decisions for our futures. We have to work to cover our own finances, we get to choose how, when and what path we will go down. So the question here is, for this and the next 20 years should we be rewarded and congratulated every single year simply for living.

Now we get to 60 and this is when I do believe we should get to celebrate once a year or for that matter all the time. There are several reasons why. Firstly we got here, that is in itself a huge effort on our part so I feel we deserve some recognition at this point. Every year thereafter is a bonus also worthy of reward. Secondly we may have actually achieved something in our lives, good work ethic, great relationships, financial security. For those who have not had an easy ride up to now, they need to be made to feel hopeful that something good is around the corner. The third reason is if we have been lucky, we will now actually have the time and the finances to enjoy those celebrations we have already had 60 times over but have never necessarily appreciated or understood why we were being congratulated.

Public Holidays

In Australia the government allocates, at the very least, 9 public holidays to celebrate each year. All employers are responsible to pay their employees a full days wage if the public holiday falls on a work day. This of course is in addition to the other 30 odd days a year the employer pays for unworked time off. The employer receives no benefit, no compensation and no production on those days. This is a large cost for the business owner whether it be the government or private enterprise. Of course we as employees will all argue we deserve it. Well that is certainly an argument for another time. There are several reasons for these allocated days and one wonders the significance of these days in the modern world. Let us take a closer look.

  • 4 days are based on religion whether you are religious or not.Therefore many of us are allocated time off to celebrate something that means absolutely nothing to us and in fact it may be something we totally frown upon.
  • 1 day is based on the introduction in Australia of the 8 hour working day back in 1856. Not sure we need to continue to recognise this day 165 years later. I understand it was a major achievement back then but currently the push is for a 4 day working week so the 8 hour day will then be redundant or will we then change the reason for the day off.
  • 1 day is given for the Queens birthday. There are many historical reasons given for why we all are given a day off to celebrate this milestone many years ago. In reality how many people actually reflect on this event on the day allocated and how many people in this country actually support the monarchy.
  • 1 day is given on 1st of January each year was introduced by Caesar partly to honour Janus the Roman god of beginnings. I do find that hard to relate to in todays society. Actually I think we keep this day as it is required as a recovery day from the New Years Eve parties the night before. This makes much more sense to me.
  • 1 day is given to celebrate Australia. For many people, Australia Day is about celebrating the values, freedoms and pastimes of our country. It’s a time for BBQs in the backyard, having a beer with mates and proudly flying the flag. On the surface, Australia Day seems to be about unifying all Australians, and yet ironically, it’s a divisive day for a growing number of people.The controversy of this day is increasing year by year and I wonder how beneficial it is in this modern society.
  • 1 day is given to commemorate the landing at Anzac Cove and is a mark of respect for those who served and sacrificed their lives in the Great War. This is the only one which I feel is warranted as the act of war changes our lives permanently. Many people who live in todays modern world have not experienced or witnessed the atrocities of war. Remembering is what helps us avoid further wars or at the very least reminds us to be prepared for possible controversy which will likely result in war.

The basic fundamental aim of celebration of public holidays is to unite people and to create peace in the world. I question if that is what we are achieving when we celebrate those listed above.

Mothers Day/Fathers Day

Always something I have disagreed with. These and the many other days of recognition are ridiculous in my mind.

Society pressures us to recognise, congratulate and glorify the roles which we ourselves choose to take. I am a mother because I chose to be. I do not agree that the world should celebrate that decision. I believe it is much more meaningful to receive a bunch of flowers or a thank you out of the blue, not when society tells my children that is what they should. How much actual love and thought is put into these days. How much sadness is caused to those who have lost that special person in their life, how much anger when someone is told to honour someone who is not worth honouring. How many memories, some good and some horribly bad are resurrected on these days. I know some people will argue with me on this note and thats fine too but I do not like the abundant commercialism that comes with these declared celebrations or special days.

The dictionary word celebrate means “acknowledge with a social gathering or enjoyable activity” We could do this any day or any time without prompting if we just thought about others before ourselves a little more often than we currently do. I apologise if this post is a little cynical, something that is creeping in as I get older and less tolerant.

Reflections

We would certainly feel lonely and isolated without having planned celebrations and I suppose that is the good side of these accepted traditional days. Special occasions are a reason to connect with others and to feel a part of society. It is often all we need to restore some happiness in a life that is full of sadness or lacks motivation. My preference though is for a little more spontaneity. I have to say I always find the most fun times to be those that are are unexpected. I welcome your comments.