29) Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!

Smiley Face

How easy it is to be a moaning Minnie.   I’m sure we all know someone (or ….. gulp, even ourselves sometimes) who get into moaning mode all too easily.

When I look back, which is far easier than looking forward, I know there have been times in my life when someone has asked ” How are you?” and it’s been all too easy to forget all the positives in my life and have a good old moan.  I honestly believe that there’s nothing wrong with that occasionally, we all go through difficult, challenging, heartbreaking times when I think we should not chastise ourselves for moaning, especially to our closest friends who are trying to help us, but it’s the habit of moaning that I’m writing about today.

I used to have a Father-in-law who could have moaned for England.  Seriously if there was a gold medal in moaning he would have been on the podium each and every day.  No matter what you did or what you said, he’d find something to moan about.  When we were first married we went to visit him in our old car, he complained that we were obviously not working hard enough and should be ashamed at driving an old banger.  A couple of years later we drove up to see him and we had a new car.  I couldn’t believe it when he started moaning that it was obviously alright for us, swanning around like we were above everyone else because we had a new car!  We just couldn’t win.

His wife, my ex-Mother-in-law, was also a pretty good moaner. She was staying with us for a while (too long!) and I remember asking her if she had any preference for lunch, whether she would like a hot cooked meal, or a light cold lunch.  She said she didn’t mind.  I even asked her if she was sure and she said yes, anything would be fine.  I was immensely busy at work so prepared a salad with some homemade bread.  She scowled as I put the meal on the table.  “I would have preferred a hot meal”  she moaned.  I can honestly say that in the twenty-six years I knew her, it was a very rare event that she made a happy, upbeat or positive comment about anything. They were obviously well matched.  In fact, thinking about, I can’t think of one instance where she was genuinely pleased with her lot.  How very sad.

I believe that this personality trait actually ages you.  When I first met my ex in-laws, when I was in my early twenties, I assumed that they had been old parents when my ex-husband was born.  Their whole house felt grey and dowdy.  Wrongly, I presumed that they were ancient, which to me at the time was anyone past sixty (how our perspective changes as we head toward the higher ‘tens’ ourselves).  In reality they were exactly the same age as my parents, and had in fact been extremely young parents.  You just would never have believed it had you met them.  The difference between them and my parents was that mine had the wonderful knack of finding the humour in everything, including themselves, they never took life too seriously.  Their houses were always colourful and full of life – they were not what I would call ‘grey’ people!

Dad had nicknames for everyone, my sister was Prunella Pimple Face and I was Fish Face Charlie – we never knew why – we just were!  He had a wonderful sense of timing where humour was concerned, saying just the right word at the right time.  Very dry and extremely observant, he did catch a few people off guard at times, which made it all the funnier! He went through some incredibly traumatic times in his life, both during his childhood, during his time in the war and in latter years, due to his health.  Amazingly though, through everything, my Dad always found something positive to say about every event in his life.

He had to undergo life threatening surgery when I was in my early teens.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to undergo surgery to remove one of his lungs.  This was in the late 1960’s and the medical treatments at that time weren’t as advanced as they are now, so it was very dangerous surgery at the time.  Dad had undergone a routine medical for the organisation he worked for and much to his horror a large shadow on his lung showed up on his chest X-ray.  He was taken into Harefield hospital and underwent an exploratory operation and they confirmed to Mum that he had lung cancer.  They gave her the choice whether to operate and possibly prolong his life by a matter of months, or to just leave it and let nature take it’s course.  Mum, after much consideration and heart searching, chose the operation.  Thank God she did, as when they operated they found that Dad didn’t have lung cancer after all.  He had an unusual form of tuberculosis in a cyst in his lung.  He was in hospital for quite a long time on a large ward. Everyone commented on how he was such a lively spirit and how he lifted the atmosphere.  Within a couple of days of the surgery he was cracking jokes, mainly about himself, and had everyone in stitches (pardon the pun).  I remember the sister on the ward saying that she would miss him so much when he went home because he had made their lives so much more enjoyable and how his warmth and humour had affected everyone so positively.  I was so proud of my Dad.

Mum too had difficult times but without fail she always managed to find something positive to say.  She used to quote Thumper from the film Bambi – “if you can’t say something nice don’t say nothin’ at all” , which is dreadfully difficult to adhere to at times (see above!), but she really did try to live by this, apart from when she and Dad were arguing, and then all their rules went out the window!

When Mum was busy working, more than full-time at times, she and Dad agreed to employ “a lady who does”, in other words, a cleaner.  I think it was Dad’s way of avoiding helping with the housework!  They employed a woman who left notes for Mum every time she left the house.  She complained that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t working properly, or that the polish Mum used wasn’t the right one, or that the broom wasn’t good enough, the house was too hot, the house was too cold etc.  The list was endless.  Dad called her “Mrs Moan-a-lot”, not to her face of course, but within the family.  The awful problem was that the name stuck and we could never remember her real name, which was embarrassing at times!

Mum and Dad had real highs and lows financially throughout their marriage.  Usually the highs where when they were both working for large companies and the lows were sometimes when Dad would start a new business and things didn’t always go so well.  They both took every opportunity they were ever given, even emigrating to Chicago in their mid-forties.  They sold their house and gave away everything they owned and off they went with huge smiles to start their new life.  Try as they could, they both hated living there!  They came back a year later and in that short time the property market had gone wild in England.  Neither of them had employment and their money, having been exchanged into dollars and back again, was nowhere near enough to buy a house again.  They moved into a bed sit and looked upon it as an adventure, both of them optimistic that something would ‘turn up’.

Much to everyone’s amazement, but no surprise to them, a large flat came up for rent in the town they both loved, Twickenham.  They had enough to put down the deposit and moved in to the two top floors of a large Victorian house.  Within a short time they both managed to find work they enjoyed within a short distance of their new home.  Two years later the landlord offered to rent them the ground floor flat as well and they jumped at it.  He was fine about them restoring the two flats back into one very beautiful large house.  Another year on and the landlord suddenly needed to liquidate his assets and offered Mum and Dad the whole house at a crazily low knock down price.  Of course they couldn’t refuse.  They bought the house, did a little work on it, and sold it six months later for a massive profit, putting them in a stronger position than when they had gone to America.  Mum took great delight in telling everyone that she had known everything would be alright.  Through all the ups and downs I never once heard them complain.  Dad used to say it was better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.  Mum being more of a romantic would quote, “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.  Looking back I realise how amazingly lucky I was to have such a pair of positive optimistic parents, which at the time I suppose I assumed everyone had.

Strangely I feel like my journey through life has always shown me two sides of everything.  I do believe that my parents were a couple of old souls, who made light of their problems and put a positive spin on their difficulties and challenges.  I wonder if my ex-in laws were younger souls.  In reality, they had very little to complain about it, but moaned about inconsequential things most of the time. My ex-in laws were pessimists about everything and saw life as a dull routine to be gotten through, whereas my parents were invariably optimistic and saw life as exciting  and enlightening.  How fortunate I was to have chosen them. I can appreciate why I feel that life is full of lessons because that is exactly what Mum and Dad taught me, and importantly, they taught me to ignore the dull routine and always look on the bright side of life!

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20) Stairway to Heaven

My brother Ray

I would have thought that as a soul, when I believe I chose my earth family, I would have tried to incorporate even a little harmony into the mix. I often look at other families and to me they look ‘smooth’, it’s like they dovetail together and everyone fits in.  Through my life I have met many people who are fortunate enough to share an easy relationship with their siblings.  Of course, I’m not saying for one minute, that is always the case, but speaking generally it seems quite usual.  I don’t count the usual sibling bickering when growing up, as a major problem, because it  is quite normal  as people’s personalities are coming to the fore as major clashes.

If you watch a litter of young cats or dogs you will observe the same spats as they are growing up and trying to assert themselves within their ‘family’.  It seems to be the way of the world, not just with us humans but within the animal kingdom to a large extent too.

I am sure that I decided to choose one of my siblings who was so very different from me in many ways,  in order to challenge my views and to teach me a myriad of life’s lessons.  It is often said that you learn by example, but  in my case, I often had to  look at what my brother did, the decisions he made and basically do the opposite!  I refer to Ray as our older brother, because being a twin, I shared him with my sister, which maybe was a good thing, because I think it diluted him a little.

I often likened my brother to a diamond with its many facets because he had so many different aspects to his personality.  You were never sure what you were going to get and it was quite imperceptible to even understand from hour to hour which would be his dominant personality trait.  He could be the most gentle caring and generous person you could ever meet, but within a short space of time you could be faced with a very different man who appeared to be full of selfish needs and could be considerably rude and abusive.  He was certainly tough to understand, and I don’t think even now I could say I ever really managed that.

Our older brother, by five years, Ray, was  a massive personality.  On the plus side he was immensely talented as a writer (he won a national story competition when he was 11), a brilliant artist and a talented musician.  He was outgoing with the most engaging sense of fun and perfect timing for comedy.  He had what I would call a quiet interest in all things spiritual, and possessed an inner  knowing, a deep understanding of life and a wonderful appreciation of the natural world. Sadly very few people ever saw that side of Ray, it was like he wore a dark cloak of protection around him and only those incredibly close and trusted, one of whom I was so fortunate to be, would ever get to see the real gentle and spiritual side to him.

He was attractive to women, of whom he had many calling and falling for him from an early age.  All our friends thought it must be so fantastic to have such a talented and good-looking brother and would even ask if he would be home before they arranged to come and visit, just hoping for a glimpse or even just a hello from him.  He undoubtedly had a magic about him which endured throughout his lifetime.  He was a natural charmer, easily making  friends wherever he went.  He was a magnet that most people found almost impossible to resist.

On the negative side, he was outrageous with no respect for rules or authority. Always in trouble, from a very early age, he spent many of his teenage years in approved school, then in and out of  borstal, and as he matured, he advanced to prisons.  It never fazed him in the slightest.  The rest of the family would be falling apart but he took it in his stride. It was never for very long and Ray saw it more as an enforced break, often he would write wonderful songs or stories and use the time to learn new skills before he would rejoin the world.

Invariably his earlier custodial sentences were due to his involvement with illegal motor bikes and cars, and when he was older for driving dangerously and at crazy speeds.  He had a desperate need for excitement. When I would ask him why he would drive like a maniac, he just used to say that he enjoyed the high, the buzz, the thrill of it.  He said he enjoyed the chase, the adrenalin charging through his veins.  I never understood. We were complete opposites in this regard.  I have always preferred peace, quiet, calm and steady, and the safety of rules and regulations.

I watched as our parents tried everything they could to make their young son conform, but it was just a waste of time.  He truly was a free spirit, a young brave who would have been an asset to the tribe, had his father been a native American chief.  He would have ridden his powerful stallion across the open lands and bravely fought for his tribal rights.  He would have understood the nature spirits, the shamanic laws, the mother earth.  Adorned with headdresses of feathers and shells, with his wolf by his side, I am sure he would have felt complete.  Instead he felt confined in our western society and kicked like a young buck against the rules which he felt should play no part in his life.

With Ray as my older brother, the age gap appeared much wider when we were younger.  As a young girl of seven or eight, Ray being then twelve or thirteen, seemed so grown up. I always felt he was my defender, somehow I felt safe with him around, which in hindsight was quite the opposite of how I should have felt. He appeared worldly-wise and being so unafraid of anything, he would take us out on fantastic adventures.  He always made the most of every opportunity for experiencing anything and everything.  He would always give anything a try.

On our many excursions during school holidays we would often go much further than our parents would have allowed.  He would ask Mum if it was ok to take us to the village for a couple of hours, but then we would find that he had planned that we would catch a train.  I’m not talking the usual way of catching a train.  There was no way that Ray would line up and pay for a ticket, no, he knew where the holes were in the chain link fence near the station and we would crawl through the undergrowth, sneak along the tracks and wait in hiding behind the station buildings for a train to arrive.  Then we’d scurry on board, and with our hearts thumping with excitement we’d be off to wherever the train took us.  That was part of the magic, never knowing where we’d end up. I don’t know how we never got caught without a ticket, but we never did!

Buses were always more of a problem with their conductors on board.  Ray would buy us tickets for 2d (yes two old pennies!) and we’d know that we’d have to get off at a certain stop, but Ray would make certain that we’d travel on crowded buses where the conductor wouldn’t notice us straight away if we stayed on the bus a little longer.  His plan didn’t always work and many a time we were thrown off the bus because we had no more money to cover our extended journeys.  Then there would be the inevitable long walks, normally through forests and across muddy fields.  Even these arduous treks would be made magical by Ray’s wonderful stories about the nature surrounding us and the mysterious creatures that lived there.  He would concoct the most amazing tales to keep us enthralled as we wearily made our way home. We were far too loyal to him to ever tell our parents of our law breaking.

He had played a guitar since we were very young and my memories of falling asleep whilst he played to us are always close to my heart.  My favourite song through many of my earlier years was Yellow Bird, which he would sing so softly to us, ‘Yellow bird, high up in banana tree, yellow bird, you sit all alone like me.’ So very different to the heavy rock he would end up playing as lead guitarist and singer with his band.

Ray led his adult life as a rock’n’roller, rubbing shoulders with those who had ‘made it’, but never quite getting there himself.  He ran various businesses, many of which were very successful, but he would soon become bored.  He had his own commercial recording studio and was in his element involved in music.  He always felt the need to escape from the confines of our culture and sadly relied heavily on serious drug use and at times became embroiled in a life surrounded by drugs.  He tried many times to move away from drugs, but in a strange way, when he managed it, his senses appeared dulled and his lust for life diminished as he tried to conform. His was known locally simply as Animal – his friends said it was because he was a party animal – which he was through and through.

When I was in my mid-teens Ray and I would sometimes spend a couple of days together at his flat.  I  felt so blessed that the Ray I normally shared my time with was wonderfully funny, gentle, and considerate. I was sure he made a huge effort for me. He’d take me out to some wonderful bistro for dinner and treat me like a real princess.  We would have the most deep and meaningful talks about life, our family, our souls, our choices.  They are still magical memories which I will always treasure. When it was just Ray and I together I felt so proud that he was my brother, but when I, quite regularly, read local newspaper reports about his appalling behaviour,  I would wonder how he could behave so differently, and dreadfully, with his close bunch of friends. I never found an explanation and could never reconcile the two extremes.

Ray’s flat was painted completely in black, and had mysterious red lights shining out of dark corners, it smelt of odd substances,dust, wine and old ashtrays.    There were candles everywhere which had been replaced many many times, but the remains of the old candles were still evident. Heavy dark velvet curtains were hung at every window, and strangely were very rarely pulled back. It was like walking into an underground cave where you would expect bats to fly at you.

The furniture was odd and bulky with old dusty velvet cushions placed everywhere.  All the wood in the flat had been acid washed back to its natural finish, and somehow it always felt sticky.

He had built a large rustic wooden cabin over his bath, complete with psychedelic lighting and speakers, so that you could lay in the bath and listen to the heavy rock music that was always playing in his home.

Huge amplifiers and speakers were in the sitting room, and his collection of electric guitars were everywhere. Shelves upon shelves of albums of his favourite bands were jostling for space in the crowded room with an ever-expanding odd array of artwork, ornaments and writings adorning every wall or shelf.

Massive mugs of tea or coffee, barely washed from many uses before, were offered along with his unusual home-made cakes and biscuits which contained a selection of various herbs and spices and which had a reputation to make you feel quite odd!  I learnt to avoid them.

He’d always want to play me the latest album he had just acquired and on one particular visit he had just bought Led Zeppelin IV.  He wanted me to hear his favourite track, Stairway to Heaven.  As the music boomed out of the speakers, loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear, he opened his french doors and we stood, arms wrapped around each other,  looking up into the dark sky picking out each twinkling star we could find.  He was telling me how we are all  from the stars, from the universe, how massive the galaxy is.

I remember thinking just how perfect the evening was with my big brother, when a very strange feeling came over me.  The garden appeared to be moving and my head felt odd.  I started to feel sick.  I told Ray I wasn’t feeling well.  ‘Ah, darling’,  he said, with a wry smile, ‘might have been the tea’.  He had, he said, added ‘magical’ ingredients.  My legs were like jelly. It took what felt like hours to get from the french doors to my bed in the spare room, which was not easy as the bed was built only a foot or so from the ceiling and I had to climb a ladder to get up there. Ray was laughing and singing to me  ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold And she’s buying the stairway to heaven’.   It certainly didn’t feel like heaven to me!

1) A Massive Leap!

To regular bloggers I expect this is easy, but as a virgin blogger this feels like opening my heart to the world.

What gives me the strength to bare my soul and share my deepest thoughts is that I know that I really am walking through this earthly life hand in hand with spirit.

I use the words ‘I know’ and not ‘I believe’ because to me the difference is so incredibly important. Belief can be more of a hopeful word, a word that is used sometimes almost in desperation, it is putting faith in someone or something, but we all know that believing in something doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true, or that it is going to happen.

Knowing …… really knowing, is a certainty, a definite, is unwavering, cannot be changed or altered. I know from my experiences with spirit, from my earliest memories when I was a small child, to the mature woman I am today, that they do indeed walk with me, hand in hand.

So, today, this is the beginning of a new way of keeping a journal of my experiences and involvement with both spirit and my wonderful earthly friends and soul mates who journey with me and share the ups and downs of life

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