Yoga, sherry and 10 life lessons from 57 years on earth

Yesterday, 22nd October, was my birthday. And despite Boris Johnson trying to ruin it all with his Tier 2 lockdown it was a grand day indeed. Full of love, meaningful gifts and messages from a lifetime of fun and great connections.

Yoga and sherry – and why not?

I learnt way back that it is the “small things”, always the seemingly “small things” that are the real magical ingredients of a good life. And these days I stop and take notice. I see in a friend’s face an adult lifetime of friendship, just looking at her I am drawn back onto that hill in Northern Italy where we danced in the late summer sunshine together to Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher man. It opens a door in my mind back into youth where everything was full on colour, there were endless days and anything was possible. I no longer lament the loss of youth, instead I just feel so happy that I was there and felt those things.

Two school friends called – a warning here to younger people if you stay friends with these people you can never lie about your age and if you do, as I did once in a national newspaper of all places 😦 , you become the butt of jokes for years to come – but it just makes my heart sing hearing from women who have shared almost the whole life journey. Family and friends – it’s where it’s at and all the rest is really just stuff.

I fear I may have to join the Dolly Parton fan club to find other souls who get just how utterly brilliant she is.

And later we danced – me and him indoors. My birthday, so I chose the playlist. Barry White Sho’You Right , Luther Vandross Never Too Much , Tina Turner Private Dancer, Kylie Can’t Get You Out of my Head. Later we did The Jam Going Underground and Dexys Midnight Runners Come on Eileen – to me so evocative of us teenagers growing up in South London in the early 80s. After a few champagnes I tried to throw in a few country and western songs – I am such a fan but have never found anybody to share this with – but the horror on his face said it all and I gracefully moved on to a Van Morrison’s In the Garden – mainly to calm the mood. I fear I may have to join the Dolly Parton fan club to find other souls who get just how utterly brilliant she is.

So anyhow I woke up this morning and thought I know what I’ll do – I’m going to write down the 10 top lessons for life. I feel I’ve done a lot of stuff, and had a lot more stuff happen to me, maybe I’ve got something interesting/useful to say. So here goes:

Life lesson #1 “Most of the old moles I know wish they had listened less to their fears and more to their dreams”. Lesson one so beautifully captured in Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”. Incidentally I want to start a national campaign to ensure this book is made mandatory reading to every child, teenager and adult in the country. Through these extraordinary animations he captures in such simple terms how we should all live our lives and treat each other. On my Mother’s deathbed she left me with a similar thought “I don’t regret anything that I did; but I so regret all the things I wanted to do and didn’t”

Life lesson #2 All women by the time they’ve reached 40 should be encouraged/forced to read the following: Nora Ephron I feel bad about my neck’ absolutely anything by Dorothy Parker who said the best line of all time I like to have a Martini, two at the most. After three I’m under the table. After four I’m under my host”. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Bossypants by Tina Fey, absolutely anything by Marilynne Robinson, although I think that Housekeeping is my favourite, Middlemarch by George Elliot, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (to learn about character), End of the Affair by Graham Greene (on love and misunderstandings). Note to self to read NW by Zadie Smith and I’ve yet to get through Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch and I know that is an appalling admission. I love Everything I Know About Love from Dolly Alderton for younger women and Caitlin Moran is always worth listening to. Oh and absolutely everything and anything by Maya Angelou – listen to her perform But Still I rise. One of the most amazing performances of all time.

Life lesson #3 Do yoga from the age of 25. If that’s way too late start now. Yoga is simply a full medicine cabinet in one place. It treats your mind, your body and your spirit. You look better, you move better and your joints stop hurting so much. It is a complete no brainer for your health so please if you haven’t already, immediately go out and buy that mat and join the millions of people who do.

Life lesson #4 “There’s good in the worst of them and bad in the best of them” and “love everybody, but trust only a few”. All from my 5ft nothing Irish Grandma Mary McKay. 14 children and lost her husband in the war – but was the bravest, fiercest and funniest woman of all by all accounts. I never met her, as she died before I was born, but her wisdom and stories flood through the veins of my family. Her belief that we are all capable of good and bad is such a lovely way to view the world and it makes us all so much more compassionate, interconnected and allows us to forgive ourselves first and foremost and then to reach out to not be so judgemental of others. Not easy! But I so believe this is key to living well.

Life lesson #5 You can’t control what happens to you; but you always have a choice of how you respond. The essential message from “my bible” Man’s Search for Meaning by holocaust survivor and Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl . It is a seminal work on thriving, not merely surviving, after trauma and it changed my life. Also in this genre is The Choice by Edith Eger – again the message is that we always have the power to steer our own lives once we accept the choices that we have available at any given time.

Life lesson #6 Learn quickly to respond and not react. I wish I’d known this earlier. As soon as we react to others we are letting go of our own internal value and strength. Try hard, and it is hard, not to enter into other people’s dramas or bad moods. Identify your core beliefs and values and stay true to these whatever happens. I love the metaphor of tree pose in yoga. Standing firm and strong, with balance, at the root and then gently staying flexible so one can move with the moment – but never moving away from the root.

Life lesson #7 – Mind your own business 🙂 Similar to the point above. But never let anybody decide for you when is not enough, when is too much, what you should be doing with your life, how to succeed and how to fail, how not to make a fool of yourself – making a fool of yourself is an essential skill in my humble option and we don’t do it nearly enough. If we are so terrified of making a fool of ourselves we get locked in a prison of other people’s expectations and beliefs and this is a very bad place to get to. If we want to live bold, magnificent and full on lives then pushing out of our comfort zones and keeping on challenging ourselves has got to be part of the mix. Safe, staid lives don’t do it for me and there is absolutely no time to waste. Do the internal work necessary, and it usually is necessary, to understand what you want to do with this precious life of yours and then tune into your inner voice – it is the greatest guide of all.

Life lesson #8 Take karma seriously. I promise you, and I’ve been doing my own little life study of this, people who keep doing bad things run out of road in the end. Take responsibility, say sorry when you need to and move on. Be ruthless around keeping everything around you in harmony with your own belief system. This means the way you look after your body and mind, including the things you watch/read/engage with, your home surroundings and the people you choose to spend time with. Not all relationships work and some run out of steam – be brave and keep your own standards. Letting go of things/people is sometimes the best, or only, option.

Life lesson #9 “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” Rosa Parks. Never be afraid to voice your truth however hard that may be, and sometimes it is inordinately hard. Never be afraid to be unpopular and ditch people pleasing as soon as you can. Never lie to yourself, your very soul is damaged when you do this.

Life lesson #10 “There is safety in reserve, but no attraction. One cannot love a reserved person”. Jane Austin Emma. Enough said.

…. and finally take this from me who has seen many children and young people not able to live the lives that were promised to them, getting old is an absolute privilege. Don’t waste a moment worrying about it. Love those lines like crazy, they mean you’ve lived to tell the tale. Dance lots, sing if you can, or do whatever fun pointless thing that makes you feel more alive, employ a great therapist, surround yourself with people who love you and you them and feel sorry for those who don’t – oh and enjoy that occasional tipple of your choice (within Govt guidelines of course)

Stay safe, stay happy and love to you all

Debbie x

I learnt way back that it is the “small things”, always the seemingly “small things” that are the real magical ingredients of a good life. And these days I stop and take notice. I see in a friend’s face an adult lifetime of friendship, just looking at her I am drawn back onto that hill in Northern Italy where we danced in the late summer sunshine together to Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher man. It opens a door in my mind back into youth where everything was full on colour, there were endless days and anything was possible. I no longer lament the loss of youth, instead I just feel so happy that I was there and felt those things.

Two school friends called – a warning here to younger people if you stay friends with these people you can never lie about your age and if you do, as I did once in a national newspaper of all places 😦 , you become the butt of jokes for years to come – but it just makes my heart sing hearing from women who have shared almost the whole life journey. Family and friends – it’s where it’s at and all the rest is really just stuff.

I fear I may have to join the Dolly Parton fan club to find other souls who get just how utterly brilliant she is.

And later we danced – me and him indoors. My birthday, so I chose the playlist. Barry White Sho’You Right , Luther Vandross Never Too Much , Tina Turner Private Dancer, Kylie Can’t Get You Out of my Head. Later we did The Jam Going Underground and Dexys Midnight Runners Come on Eileen – to me so evocative of us teenagers growing up in South London in the early 80s. After a few champagnes I tried to throw in a few country and western songs – I am such a fan but have never found anybody to share this with – but the horror on his face said it all and I gracefully moved on to a Van Morrison’s In the Garden – mainly to calm the mood. I fear I may have to join the Dolly Parton fan club to find other souls who get just how utterly brilliant she is.

So anyhow I woke up this morning and thought I know what I’ll do – I’m going to write down the 10 top lessons for life. I feel I’ve done a lot of stuff, and had a lot more stuff happen to me, maybe I’ve got something interesting/useful to say. So here goes:

Life lesson #1 “Most of the old moles I know wish they had listened less to their fears and more to their dreams”. Lesson one so beautifully captured in Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”. Incidentally I want to start a national campaign to ensure this book is made mandatory reading to every child, teenager and adult in the country. Through these extraordinary animations he captures in such simple terms how we should all live our lives and treat each other. On my Mother’s deathbed she left me with a similar thought “I don’t regret anything that I did; but I so regret all the things I wanted to do and didn’t”

Life lesson #2 All women by the time they’ve reached 40 should be encouraged/forced to read the following: Nora Ephron I feel bad about my neck’ absolutely anything by Dorothy Parker who said the best line of all time I like to have a Martini, two at the most. After three I’m under the table. After four I’m under my host”. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Bossypants by Tina Fey, absolutely anything by Marilynne Robinson, although I think that Housekeeping is my favourite, Middlemarch by George Elliot, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (to learn about character), End of the Affair by Graham Greene (on love and misunderstandings). Note to self to read NW by Zadie Smith and I’ve yet to get through Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch and I know that is an appalling admission. I love Everything I Know About Love from Dolly Alderton for younger women and Caitlin Moran is always worth listening to. Oh and absolutely everything and anything by Maya Angelou – listen to her perform But Still I rise. One of the most amazing performances of all time.

Life lesson #3 Do yoga from the age of 25. If that’s way too late start now. Yoga is simply a full medicine cabinet in one place. It treats your mind, your body and your spirit. You look better, you move better and your joints stop hurting so much. It is a complete no brainer for your health so please if you haven’t already, immediately go out and buy that mat and join the millions of people who do.

Life lesson #4 “There’s good in the worst of them and bad in the best of them” and “love everybody, but trust only a few”. All from my 5ft nothing Irish Grandma Mary McKay. 14 children and lost her husband in the war – but was the bravest, fiercest and funniest woman of all by all accounts. I never met her, as she died before I was born, but her wisdom and stories flood through the veins of my family. Her belief that we are all capable of good and bad is such a lovely way to view the world and it makes us all so much more compassionate, interconnected and allows us to forgive ourselves first and foremost and then to reach out to not be so judgemental of others. Not easy! But I so believe this is key to living well.

Life lesson #5 You can’t control what happens to you; but you always have a choice of how you respond. The essential message from “my bible” Man’s Search for Meaning by holocaust survivor and Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl . It is a seminal work on thriving, not merely surviving, after trauma and it changed my life. Also in this genre is The Choice by Edith Eger – again the message is that we always have the power to steer our own lives once we accept the choices that we have available at any given time.

Life lesson #6 Learn quickly to respond and not react. I wish I’d known this earlier. As soon as we react to others we are letting go of our own internal value and strength. Try hard, and it is hard, not to enter into other people’s dramas or bad moods. Identify your core beliefs and values and stay true to these whatever happens. I love the metaphor of tree pose in yoga. Standing firm and strong, with balance, at the root and then gently staying flexible so one can move with the moment – but never moving away from the root.

Life lesson #7 – Mind your own business 🙂 Similar to the point above. But never let anybody decide for you when is not enough, when is too much, what you should be doing with your life, how to succeed and how to fail, how not to make a fool of yourself – making a fool of yourself is an essential skill in my humble option and we don’t do it nearly enough. If we are so terrified of making a fool of ourselves we get locked in a prison of other people’s expectations and beliefs and this is a very bad place to get to. If we want to live bold, magnificent and full on lives then pushing out of our comfort zones and keeping on challenging ourselves has got to be part of the mix. Safe, staid lives don’t do it for me and there is absolutely no time to waste. Do the internal work necessary, and it usually is necessary, to understand what you want to do with this precious life of yours and then tune into your inner voice – it is the greatest guide of all.

Life lesson #8 Take karma seriously. I promise you, and I’ve been doing my own little life study of this, people who keep doing bad things run out of road in the end. Take responsibility, say sorry when you need to and move on. Be ruthless around keeping everything around you in harmony with your own belief system. This means the way you look after your body and mind, including the things you watch/read/engage with, your home surroundings and the people you choose to spend time with. Not all relationships work and some run out of steam – be brave and keep your own standards. Letting go of things/people is sometimes the best, or only, option.

Life lesson #9 “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” Rosa Parks. Never be afraid to voice your truth however hard that may be, and sometimes it is inordinately hard. Never be afraid to be unpopular and ditch people pleasing as soon as you can. Never lie to yourself, your very soul is damaged when you do this.

Life lesson #10 “There is safety in reserve, but no attraction. One cannot love a reserved person”. Jane Austin Emma. Enough said.

…. and finally take this from me who has seen many children and young people not able to live the lives that were promised to them, getting old is an absolute privilege. Don’t waste a moment worrying about it. Love those lines like crazy, they mean you’ve lived to tell the tale. Dance lots, sing if you can, or do whatever fun pointless thing that makes you feel more alive, employ a great therapist, surround yourself with people who love you and you them and feel sorry for those who don’t – oh and enjoy that occasional tipple of your choice (within Govt guidelines of course)

Stay safe, stay happy and love to you all

Debbie x

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