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LOVE & LIFE

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This is a test.

To see if we’d get on.

I do spend a lot of time running around to get things done.

I’m busy.

And I imagine you are too.

Very occasionally these days I have to post something.

It’s a right nuisance.

But there we go.

Birds. 

How would you feel if you were faced with this sign?

I’m not asking what you’d do.

I’m asking how you’d feel.

If you’d feel inconvenienced and grouchy, we’d not get on.

If you’d feel warm, reminded that life is much more than the treadmill of what’s in front of us, we’d be fine.

Life.

I like little reminders of what really matters in life.

Life itself.

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www.50odd.co.uk. 3,650 diary entries. 1 each day. For 10 years. 

Is this obsessive?

I watch the entire box set of ‘Cheers’ – every year.

That’s 275 episodes.

I still can’t remember everything that happens.

And I still laugh at the things whether I remember what’s coming or not.

As much as I enjoy Cheers being on, I also think it’s a test for Lisa.

She does one of those smiles that is really only with the mouth (not the eyes) when I say I’m going to put Cheers on.

And it’s often when it’s Lisa’s turn to make tea.

So she may very well be stood in the kitchen holding a knife as I pop the DVD in, my back to her.

It’s the thrill I like.

She’s very tolerant.

For now.

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Nick Cave was asked this question by a fan called Cynthia, in October 2018.

I have experienced the death of my father, my sister, and my first love in the past few years and feel that I have some communication with them, mostly through dreams. They are helping me. Are you and Susie feeling that your son Arthur is with you and communicating in some way?

Nick Cave’s son Arthur died in 2015, aged 15.

This is Nick’s reply to Cynthia, in an open letter:

Dear Cynthia,

This is a very beautiful question and I am grateful that you have asked it. It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined.

Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence.

It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence.

These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.

I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there.

I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there.

He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there.

Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility.

Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.

With love, Nick.

Izobel is 2.

I am amazed, having never had children before, how much a 2 year old can know and process at such a young age.

How deeply they think.

Earlier this week, as I sat on the settee watching the television, Izobel was sat – still – to my left.

After a little while, her fidgety legs lifted her and – quite suddenly – she jumped clean over my lap and landed to my right.

I was concerned she’d fall on the wooden floor of course.

But I smiled as she paused to considered this new game.

Then, Izobel jumped back across my lap and landed once more to my left.

There was a pattern now.

And it continued.

Dizzy.

After 8 or 10 if these jumped, I called her name and began to explain something.

“Izobel” I said, “You might fall. You’ll get dizzy.”

She listened silently.

She was looking at my eyes.

Thinking.

“You’ve not fallen yet…” I continued, “…but you surely will, the dizzier you get.”

“Now – what are you going to do? Slow down and be safe here at my side? Where there is no chance at all of you falling. Or getting hurt?”

“Or are you going to continue to make your self dizzy? To bounce and fly?”

Two seconds passed before she flew across my lap once more, laughing.

Then back again.

And again.

“I have just seen the future”, I thought.

“And I have just seen a little bit of me, too.”

Winter is my favourite season.

I think it’s because it’s the season I can wear most clothes.

I like clothes.

Layered.

Then throughout the day peel them off if I feel like it.

To reveal a different uniform.

I find that interesting.

Overcoat… jacket… sweater… shirt… undershirt…

All at the same time.

Snow. 

And I like snow too because it simplifies everything.

It hides the detail.

And the mess.

The unnecessary fuss and nonsense.

The uncut lawn and the beautifully manicured lawn look the same.

When I see freshly fallen snow, to me, it’s like someone hit the ‘reset’ button.

It reminds me that we don’t need this car or that car.

Because when all the cars in the street are covered in the same whiteness, I am reminded that cars are for getting you and me from here to there.

And how strange it is then that this car costs £5,000 and that one costs £50,000.

Under snow, they look so similar.

Children.

And then there are the children who, universally, love the snow.

Because it is new and fresh and – somehow – theirs.

Children elbow you and the rest of the world out of the way when their snow comes.

They want the first footprints in the snow to be their footprints.

Pause.

We grownups have a lot to contend with.

Snow somehow gets in the way of all these things that we adults have to do.

But we don’t have to think like that…

Winter’s gift of snow is your opportunity to stop.

Pause.

Relax.

Smile.

And watch the children.

Not much that the children do in the snow is for anything.

It’s very momentary.

And as we all know, the snow won’t last.

But for those short few minutes hours or maybe a couple of days, the snow – to them – is all that matters.

There’s a lot to be said for living in the moment.

And one of the greatest reminders of this, I think, is snow.

There is a difference between knowing that something is true and really believing that something is true.

I have known this for a while, but it is only recently that I started to believe it.

(You might want to read those two sentences a few times. I had to. And I wrote them). 

Belief. 

Here is how this is affecting my life at the moment.

I have known for some time – absolutely and unequivocally – that listening to other people is stupid.

It crushes creativity, creates self-doubt and can slow life to a crawl.

But I still do it.

Not as much as I did.

But I still do it.

However – just recently, I have started switching my phone off for 2 or 3 blocks of 4 to 6 hours per day.

Every day.

I react to ‘stuff’ in small, 10 minute gaps between these blocks.

And believe me, the longer I do this, the more I dislike these gaps.

I just want to get on with life.

This is a great example of taking action because, somehow, I have moved from knowing to believing.

And I sense that I am now moving from ‘believing’ to ‘habit’.

Knowing. Believing. Habit.

When I started writing this, I didn’t know how it was going to end.

But now I do.

Here goes…

To make life more fulfilling. So you achieve more. So you race towards your dreams and ambitions more effectively. Try to work out how to move from knowing something to believing it enough that you take proper, meaningful action. Then, make that action a habit so that it becomes automatic. Then get on with your life and follow this process over and over so that you develop a whole raft of brilliant, healthy, automatic habits. All of them plugged in to helping you to achieving your goals and dreams.

There’s no ‘how’ in this story.

I haven’t worked out ‘how’ yet.

But this is a great ‘what’.

Honestly; it’s working for me.

Moving knowing… to believing… to acting… to a habit.

PS  I think you already know all of this.

PPS  But do you believe it?

There is a lot to be said for being gentle.

And calm and attentive.

I spend too much time twitching and buzzing around.

Never elbowing or bullying.

But always busy.

On duty.

Looking for the edge, sniffing out the angle, counting what’s been accumulated, grieving what’s been lost, waiting for the breaks, hoping for the tipping points.

Life is fast.

Gentle. 

I notice that some men blink slowly.

I am drawn to men that blink slowly.

I like them because they appear gentle.

And kind.

I try to remember to blink slowly.

People that blink slowly always seem to be somehow more attentive.

Like they are really listening.

Their eyes on yours.

Silently.

Chess.

The film at the end of this story is called, and is about ‘The Last Chess Shop in New York’.

You will take from it what you will.

What I took from it was that there is a lot to be said for being gentle.

For looking after people.

And one more thing…

The other thing I took from this 6 minute film is this.

In life, there are (we are told) many different groups of people. Men, women, old, young, black, white, friends, enemies, the just, the thieves, the Brexiteers and the remainers.

In this film, I see only two kinds of people.

Strangers and friends.

And I also sense that, in this tiny corner of the world, The Last Chess Shop in New York, there is a minuscule yet steady drip, drip, drip of the former – becoming the latter.

And that’s lovely.

Google is great for finding things and for finding out about things.

YouTube is great for watching and listening to things.

And, as you know, they are actually learning about you.

You know this because  each time you interact with them – as if like magic – they show you things that are extensions of and related to what you’ve done before.

All very clever.

Because I like Portishead, they think I’ll like Zero 7 too.

And they’d be right.

Window versus Windscreen.

The problem comes when we use these tools as windscreens and not windows.

By ‘windscreen’ I mean using Google, YouTube and the Internet at large as the main way to learn about or experience things.

By ‘window’ I mean using Google, YouTube and the Internet at large for a quick and infrequent search, recreational break or support for my work.

We ‘peep’ through windows.

Windscreens, within this metaphor at least, are all we look through as we go on life’s journey.

Dull.

Think about it…

In this short life of yours if you spend too much time with Google and YouTube etc. as your windscreen, you will only ever experience the familiar in life.

That’s far too comfortable.

And dull.

Surely you deserve more?

These tools will have you shuffling a little to the right.

A little to the left.

A little to the right again.

Christ!

That’s not what life’s about.

Turn Them Off.

Turn them off.

Don’t let them be the compass that keeps you chugging along in pretty much the same direction as you’re going already.

Stop shuffling.

Start str-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ding.

In new directions.

SCARY, adrenaline-pumping directions

Historyless.

Fresh.

New.

Let the adventure begin!

I don’t think that anything you do should be everything you do.

The stakes are too high.

I’ve made this mistake more than once.

Obsessing about one thing and letting it take over my life.

Going All In.

This doesn’t mean not going ‘all in’ though.

Committing to your dream properly is important.

You have 1000 months – then you die.

So if you are going to do something, do it really, really well.

Balance.

But like I suggested at the beginning, I think we should fill our lives with other things as well as our dream.

So that family and friends still see us and know us.

So that we still know ourselves.

So we still learn and experience things outside of our core activity.

So yes – I don’t think that anything you do should be everything you do.

It’ll only make you miserable.

And the thing you’re supposed to love might just end up becoming the thing you hate.

I’ve been around for 50 years.

Sometimes it feels like a lot.

Sometimes it feels like no time at all.

Sometimes I have loved life so much that I didn’t want to sleep.

Sometimes I have feared life so much that I didn’t want to wake up.

Patterns.

In order to make life better, and to learn, I sometimes look for patterns.

Patterns that might help me understand how I can nurture the natural highs and remove the lows.

One pattern I have come to recognise is that the more people I listen to, the more lows I have.

The more I try to analyse and understand who is saying what and why, the worse I feel – no matter what I discover – good or bad.

And the learning from this is simple.

It is to never try to understand people. Don’t try to unpick their thoughts and don’t spend any time trying to influence them.

Marmite.

The best way I can try to explain the futility of this activity – yearning to understand why someone likes a thing or does not like a thing – is with Marmite.

Some people like it.

Some people don’t like it.

If you were Marmite, wanting to be happy and successful Marmite, which of these two strategies would you adopt?

  1. Look for the people that like Marmite, build a relationship with them and look after them.
  2. Look for the people that don’t like Marmite and try to convince them they are wrong – or of the ‘rightness’ of Marmite.

It has to be 1.

Especially as I am 606 months into my 1,000 months on earth.

And I suggest you adopt the same strategy as we burst into a beautiful, brilliant, brand new year.

2019.

In 2019 I will continue to like Marmite.

And those that don’t, won’t.

If they have any sense they will flock with other Marmite dislikers.

If they have time to waste, they’ll come and bother me.

Telling me how disgusting Marmite is.

Wasting my time.

And theirs.

Happy New Year

So Happy New Year to you, whatever your tastes.

And in the months you have left, if you are not doing it already, please work towards doing what you were born to do.

And believe me, if you too listen only to those on your side of the Marmite fence – you’ll get there a lot more quickly.

And that’s good for all of us.