38) Pros and Cons

This is an approximation of the zig-zag visual...

Yesterday I was supposed to be going out for afternoon tea with two good friends, Kay and Annette.  We had planned to go to a large garden centre where we could have sat outside enjoying the afternoon sunshine.  It was a special outing as Kay had been housebound for several months since last August and Annette has recently recovered since going through, what can only be termed as, an onslaught of medical problems.  She really had been through the mill and we were all so pleased to be able to finally arrange a get together. I had been so looking forward to the three of us having chats and generally enjoying one another’s company. Unfortunately though my own health issues decided to play up and so I had no option but to cancel.

It all started last weekend when I had the strangest experience which I must admit at the time, I’d wondered if it could spiritually based.  I suddenly lost some of my vision and then saw the most wonderful iridescent colours, sparkles and light beams.  It was seriously like something out of a science fiction movie.  Diamond shaped lights zooming around the room and lines of the brightest golds pinks and blues.  It was a little like an indoor firework display but without the noise. It lasted about fifteen or twenty minutes and then just stopped.  I thought it was rather odd, but had no other symptoms or pain and as I had been talking about spiritual matters at the time I did wonder if it was just one of those peculiar things that has happened to me from time to time.  I had previously, many years ago, taken myself off to the opticians when I had experienced some very unusual colours and odd visuals but had that time been assured that my eyes were fine. I am sure now that spirit were involved on other occasions, but on Sunday it was totally different to anything I’d had before.

On Monday I had to see my doctor about an unrelated matter.  At the end of the consultation I mentioned the light show I had seen.  I fully expected her to be dismissive and tell me it was nothing to worry about, but instead, with almost a look of panic, she told me I should go straight to eye casualty.  She said that I may have a detached retina.  Goodness, I was more than a little shocked.  My main concern was how on earth do they stick a detached retina back on! Is there some kind of eye super glue?

Thankfully when Simon took me to the hospital we quickly saw an eye specialist and he asked me my medical history (poor man!) and decided that it was more than likely that I’d had an ocular migraine.  He said that I should go back and have a full examination the next day, but not to worry.  When I came home I looked up the diagnosis and it certainly seemed to fit. The following day another doctor put what I would call ‘stinging liquid’ in my eyes to fully dilate them so that he could take a more in-depth look at the back of my eyes. He confirmed that everything looked fine and that he too felt I’d had an ocular migraine.  I was told I shouldn’t drive and I was lucky that Kay drove me because when I came out my vision was all fuzzy and I couldn’t even see the curbs, let alone a cyclist I almost walked into!

My body never seems to want to behave ‘normally’.  I have had what I call typical migraines since my late teens and over the years have been able to manage them quite well with some powerful medication and learning what works best, which for me is absolute silence, absolute darkness, absolute stillness and cold damp towels on my forehead and back of my neck.  In more recent years I have been diagnosed with vestibular migraines which cause the most dreadful dizziness and vertigo but no pain and I have to take daily medication to try to avert them. Now I have the ocular version! A free light show and no pain.  I know which one I’d choose if I had a choice!

So, I thought everything was fine. I came home from the hospital with my eyes looking like I was some kind of junkie.  Simon just kept staring at me with my massive pupils, which I couldn’t see because my vision was still all blurred.  I wish he’d taken a photo of me now because he said I looked so weird!

Typically though my body decided to react.  Anything unusual and it plays up.  I’ve done all the positive health affirmations for years. I have spent hours of my life saying out loud ‘I am well’, ‘I am healthy’, and various versions.  I still do.  I say it as if it were right now, not in the future.  I should have a diploma for all the affirmation books, hints and tips I’ve read.  I’m still hopeful that one day the words will suddenly slip into my subconscious and my body will sit up and take notice.

Today my twin Tina was supposed to be coming over for the day.  I know how much our Fridays mean to her, and I just hate to let her down.  She and I look forward to spending time together, no matter what we are able to do, even if it’s just sitting reading or listening to music.  Our Fridays are special, we talk about our childhoods, our parents, our brother, our shared memories all of which are so important for Tinas recovery after her stroke.  If she’s feeling up to it she might be able to peel a few carrots, which for her is a mega achievement, or even make a cup of tea.  We take great delight in every step she takes along her path towards becoming more independent.  Yesterday I was feeling so lousy I thought it only fair to warn her that I might not be up to her visit today, but ever hopeful said that I would ring her this morning to let her know for sure.

I had an early night after already sleeping most of yesterday, but even though I slept well I knew the minute I woke up that I would have to have another day hibernating, recharging my battery, if I was to get back to anywhere near my normal energy level (which is a pretty pathetic 4/10 compared to my pre-illness 10/10) . I dreaded ringing Tina and sure enough she was very upset and crying.  I know she understood but her emotions are raw since her stroke. Very small things can easily annoy her or upset her and she becomes frustrated by her lack of ability to deal with matters which she would have not given a second thought to when she was well.  I looked out at the beautiful spring sunshine and crawled back into bed.  I do know that I am far luckier than a lot of people.  I have been going through a good phase recently where I have been able to stick to most of my plans for several weeks.  I have to organise everything with breaks and rests but by doing that can enjoy my life immensely.

In bed yesterday afternoon, with Maddie loving every moment of being able to lay beside me, I did think about my life before I was chronically ill.  I wondered, health wise, if I had no option but to make a choice between my previous life or my life now which would I choose? I thought about it on and off for quite a while.  Weighing up the pros and cons.  One thing that most ‘well’ people do is take their health and energy for granted, whilst most unwell people make the most of every good minute they have.  I thought about seriously wealthy people who waste their money and rarely value what they have, whereas people on a budget plan their spending carefully and make the most of every penny they have and truly value what they can afford.

I thought of the friends I have who accept me with all my limitations, who show such enormous patience when I sometimes have to let them down, who really care how I am and where possible make allowances for my limited energy.  I also thought of the friends I used to have, many who sadly disappeared into the woodwork when I became chronically ill.  My friends now are very different, more ‘real’, far more caring and also far more fun.  I feel I am so lucky. I am rich in friendships and time spent with my friends is always so worthwhile. Would I have valued my friends so much before?

It’s tough to crawl back into bed when the sun is shining, but then many people are working, often doing something they don’t particularly like, and not even seeing the sunshine.  Many people are trapped in their hectic lives, trying to be the best, have the best, striving to achieve perfection but never feeling they are succeeding.  There I was curled up in my comfy bed with my beautiful dog by my side listening to gentle meditation music whilst a warm breeze wafted over me from the open window.   Hmmm …. the choice would not be easy!

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34) It’s Only a Number!

A picture of a birthday cake

I’ve just had a birthday.  Hooray!

The problem is that I can’t get used to being so ‘old’.  Although my body doesn’t exactly feel ‘young’, my head, my mind and my heart does.  I’m like a ‘cut and shut’ where bits of me just don’t fit together quite right.  My body hasn’t felt very young for a number of years now. Due to a chronic illness I always have pain somewhere and the lack of energy is annoying, but I’ve got used to that over time, it’s been with me for nineteen years, so I should have by now!

No, now the problem is that my body is actually ageing.  I’ve noticed the wrinkles deepening and my eyelids kind of folding over, its difficult to describe, but all of my eyelids used to be visible, but now there is extra skin that hangs over them – I’m sure there is a technical name for it – but it’s happened all of a sudden.  My legs have never been my strong point, being knock-kneed how I rejoiced when maxi dresses came back into fashion, but now they too are beginning to look like old lady legs.  As I’ve aged I’m seeing more and more the family genes take over.  Auntie Violet legs – thanks Auntie!

My twin used to be very good at pointing out my short comings, but since her stroke she hasn’t so much and I have been thankful for that.  Last Friday when she came over she was looking intently at my hands.  Now, she doesn’t often say a lot these days so I normally relish a conversation with her, but on Friday she was not having a good day and was more ‘there’ (wherever that is), than ‘here’, so when she started to talk I was really pleased. “You’ve got”, she looked as if she was frustrated trying to talk, “You’ve got” she tried again, “What am I trying to say?”, “I don’t know sis” I replied, as I often do, because she often asks that.  There was another long pause and I always imagine her brain is trying to get into gear, “You’ve got  age spots on your hands” she piped up with a big smile, “Oh” I said, a little shocked, “and your hands” she went on, “your hands”, I waited patiently as she gathered her thoughts once again, “your hands aren’t looking so pretty these days, they look wrinkly”.  Gee, thanks sis!  Well that was certainly worth waiting for!

I hadn’t really looked at her hands before, they are lily white as she has been indoors for almost three years now and she only had one very tiny insignificant age spot.  One of her habits since her stroke is applying hand lotion many many times a day, so I must admit her hands do look very soft.  Maybe it should become one of my habits too. She isn’t capable of doing any housework or washing up either and I’m sure that plays a big role in my wrinkly, aged spots hand syndrome! Bless her!

I think the reason this birthday has hit me harder than all the rest is that it really is the heading towards sixty birthday, I can’t say I’m in my early fifties anymore, I’ve tilted over the edge of fifty five and fifty six does sound so very grown up! I think, for all of us who have gained some weight, we can look in the mirror and think about when we are slim again, there is a hope that one day we may shed the weight and be back to our ‘real’ slim selves.  For me too, there is always the hope that one day I am going to wake up well, that my illness will have scuttled off into the night, never to darken my door again, and I will once again return to the ‘real’ healthy, full of vitality, capable of anything, me.  But, looking in the mirror now, seeing my droopy eyelids and, thanks to Tina, being aware of my aged hands, there is no hope that one day the droops will disappear and the wrinkles will all smooth out.  I’m not even going to consider discussing the other, more covered up, bits of me, that are patently struggling with age.  A girl (or maybe I should at this age say woman) does have to keep some dignity! No, this is it.  It really is the beginning of me looking old.

I was chatting to my sister-in-law Wendy just before my birthday.  Wendy is sixteen years younger than me (eek, I’m ‘just’ old enough to be her mother!), she is extremely pretty, very petite and super fit.  She goes to the gym most days and also leads a very busy life as a hairdresser, a Mum to my two beautiful neices and has a very active social life.  She is also, absolutely lovely and great fun to be with.  As the years have gone by and we have got to know each other better we enjoy an easy relationship and chat away and discuss anything and everything.  I’m so lucky to have her as my sis-in-law.  She was asking me how old I was going to be and when I told her she said it is just a number. I laughed, yes, I agreed, but said it was a bloomin’ big number!

This week there was the shocking news of the death of Whitney Houston and it really got me thinking.  She had died when she was only forty eight years old.  I met Simon when I was that age, and how I would have hated to have missed the wonderful time we have shared together.  I have met so many wonderful new people since moving to Hampshire when I was forty eight.  For me it was an age when my life turned around, when I had the courage to stand up and be me, to leave an old life and start afresh.   I didn’t have Whitneys fame, her talent, her money or her looks, but I did have my own identity, which I sadly feel she was lacking.  How sad that her life ended when my new life had just begun.  I was thinking that Whitney won’t ever be old enough to be complaining about droopy eyelids and how very fortunate I am to have made it to have a big number birthday.

How sad that so many amazingly talented people just can’t cope with their lives and end up relying so heavily on drugs and alcohol to get through.  I wonder how many of them feel lonely, how many question who really likes them for who they are, not what they have or what they can do for them? It must be tough to cope with public adulation when in your heart you are not prepared, when deep down you must know that you are not coping with the success.

I find it strange how many young people say they want to be famous, and yet fame has so many drawbacks, I just don’t understand why anyone would want to be in a position where they can’t even pop out to their local shops without someone taking a snap of them. Where everyone feels they have the right to comment on and often criticise what you wear, who you spend your time with, what you do. What a dreadful way to live your life!

Hopefully Whitney is now beginning a new life in spirit where she will be able to realise how amazingly fortunate she was in so many ways, where she will be able to find some of the joy she had in her life here.  I do hope that her soul will heal and with help she will be able to move forward along her pathway. Maybe in her next incarnation she will again have the voice of an angel, but our society may have moved on and she will not be put on such a pedestal, where from such a great height so many have fallen.  Maybe next time she’ll happily get to the big number birthdays.  Let’s hope so.

33) Hi-di-Hi Campers!!

Simon and I always try to do something different for our birthdays.   Over the years amongst other things, I’ve been whisked away for a romantic break to a luxury hotel, we’ve been on the London Eye and Simon has been a racing driver, etc.  You get the gist.  The whole idea is that our birthdays are memorable events, a special day to mark the beginning of our next year.  So, when friends of mine mentioned a  Psychic & Spiritual Festival that started on my birthday I thought it would be a unique way to enjoy a get-away and experience the work of mediums that I hadn’t seen before.

As the event was being held right by the coast  “Sceptic Simon” agreed to come along, not to attend any workshops or lectures, but to go out and about with his beloved camera taking some landscape shots with his new filters.  So, we were two very happy bunnies, full of excitement looking forward to the weekend.

I rang the venue to ask if there was a program as my friends and I wondered if we had to book any of the workshops, but I was told that no-one knows the events until the day they arrive.  Goodness, I thought, they must be mega organised!  We where aiming to arrive at about 3:30pm and our timing was spot on. We were given the keys to our ‘chalet’ and directions,  but as we walked through the car park my heart began to sink  when I saw the rows and rows of ‘chalets’ – Hi di Hi couldn’t help but come to mind.  Our room was a double …. just …  it was so small, and the bathroom was something out of the ark,  it was what I would call VERY basic!   It was not what I had expected, but then it’s not what you expect that makes life richer!

I was keen to look at the programme and we couldn’t help but laugh when the saw the evening entertainment billed as Scott Paige and his High Octaine Show-Team.  Seriously, I felt like we were in a time warp and we had unknowingly been time travelling back to the mid 60’s!

After the disappointment with our chalet we really didn’t expect much of the food,  but have to say that it exceeded expectations.  The service was great and the food, although plain, was well cooked and we certainly weren’t going to be starving. We were given a table number and had to sit at the same table for the whole time.  We were sat opposite two women, Julie and her aunt Sylvia.  Julie was a florist by trade, with a very dry sense of humour and a houseful of assorted rescued pets with rather strange names.  Sylvia had a very fast mind, was great company and relayed some very amusing spiritually based stories. They were both real characters with great personalities and we felt we were so lucky to sit opposite them.

The first evening there was a medley of mediums demonstrating until 10pm.  I hadn’t heard of them before, but I gather they are quite well-known.  I must say that the evidence that was brought through by Philip Solomon was amazing.  He was giving people not just names and memorable dates but addresses as well.  I can’t say I agreed with everything he said about his beliefs on spiritual matters, but he did say that we all have our own views and that we must respect that.  I was really pleased because even Sceptic Simon was marginally impressed, and that is quite something!

Simon toddled off on the first morning to go and take some pics and I stayed with my friend Annette as we were working out which lectures or workshops to attend.  The problem seemed to be that there were never enough chairs in the rooms and they kept moving who was working where, which is quite confusing when there are about five hundred people all trying to find their way about.  I wasn’t too worried about missing any of the workshops as I hadn’t heard of the tutors before, but one person I particularly wanted to see was Jay Love.

I had met Jay several years before, when as students at the Arthur Findlay College in Stanstead we had discussed our spiritual development.  So many of our experiences had been shared it was quite uncanny.  He struck me then as a real down to earth kind of chap.  He was a gentle soul with kind eyes and had a wicked sense of humour.  He didn’t take himself too seriously, although it was obvious how much he respected spirit.  I had never forgotten him and a few months ago had found him on the internet and we had been in contact via Facebook, where I had learnt that his development had led him to physical mediumship and he was now able to bring through spirit using transfiguration.

For those who don’t know about this form of mediumship, it is when the medium goes into trance and spirits communicate and also temporarily materialise, usually over the mediums face, by utilising a form of energy that it is believed the medium manufactures within themselves.  It is rare to be able to see this first hand.

I had desperately wanted to see Jay demonstrate his physical mediumship, but as we arrived at the designated room we were told we would need to bring our own chairs and bluntly told by the lady on the door that she would be locking the door in one minute.  This didn’t give us enough time to go and get the chairs so we ended up in another room seeing a lecture about ghost pictures!

Most of  Saturday I saw various people do various things, nothing that I found totally astounding,  it was ok, but I was deeply disappointed not to have seen Jay.  Having said all that though there was certainly a good mixture of differing disciplines for you to take a look at, everything from pure spiritual communication to paranormal investigation to tarot, to sand box readings.  The choice was quite amazing.

In the late afternoon Annette and I found ourselves at a bit of a loose end and, almost by accident, found ourselves in a lecture about animal communication, which we weren’t planning to attend.  As we walked in there were two pictures on a board.  One was a very nice looking cat and the other looked  like my old dog Sam.  I even said to Annette “goodness, that looks just like Sam”.  We sat down and began listening and much to my surprise the lady, who was actually a medium, explained that she had only just drawn the pictures and these two animals wanted to communicate with their owners.  It wasn’t at all what I had expected.  Several people tried to accept information about the cat, who was a tabby called Tigger, but eventually the information given narrowed it down to one particular lady in the audience and she was given the picture.

Then the medium, Raye Edwina Brown, started to talk about the dog.  She said that his name was Sam!  My hand shot up immediately.  She explained that in his old age his back legs had given way and he had to be put to sleep, but that this happened at home.  That was exactly what had happened to Sam.  She said it was literally only a few days before he died that this had started, which was true, as Sam’s back legs gave out on a Friday and I called the vet on Monday as he couldn’t stand up.  She even gave the date of the year he was born.  I was so chuffed.  He sent me his love and told me that he was pleased that I had so much freedom in my life now.  I was called to the front to collect my picture.  I waited until everyone had left and went over to thank Raye and she took a photo of me with the picture of Sam and said she is going to put it in her magazine!

This had made my weekend, I didn’t really expect very much more.  I had loved Sam so much and felt so lucky that he had come through.  I had given communication from animals to people in readings in the past and had seen their delight, and now I knew exactly how they felt.

The evening was not so good.  To me, the mediums were more interested in being entertainers than mediums and I did feel on a few occasions that they were not respectful to either the spirits or the audience.  I watched three of them and decided I would rather go back to the cold chalet than sit and watch anymore.  I was so annoyed that it was typical that Simon was there, and this did nothing to improve his belief in anything spiritual!

On Sunday I had already decided that I wanted to go home.  I was cold, uncomfortable, fed up with all the last-minute changes and to be honest the mediumship the night before had really made me question so much that I felt quite unsettled.  I did though want to have the opportunity to see Jay give a demonstration and on the program it stated that he would be in the Lounge giving a mental mediumship and spirit guides talk at 11:30am, so I thought we’d go home after that.  Annette and I were heading for the lounge when I saw Jay walking away from there, I stopped him and asked where his lecture was going to be.  He told me it was going to be in the Games Room and that there should be enough chairs.  So, we headed off there, found Jay, but again no chairs! Annette went out and found some patio chairs to sit on and we sat expecting a mental mediumship talk.  We were so lucky as Jay was planning to give another demonstration of his transfiguration gifts.  The whole experience was nothing short of phenomenal.  Jay gave a really good talk beforehand, quite thought-provoking, and then his trance guide arrived and introduced himself.  He was nothing at all like Jay, although he did share a sense of humour.  The transfiguration was just mind-blowing.  Grown men and women were obviously emotional at  communicating with their loved ones in spirit and being able to see their faces materialise over Jay’s face.  What an amazing gift he has!

We left just after lunch and were home in the light, turned the heating up and enjoyed sitting on a comfy sofa!

Annette told me that the last night had been the best evening and it had been a shame I had missed it.  Jay had demonstrated his mediumship abilities and she said his evidence was brilliant.  An Irish medium, Sharon Neill, had given evidence that a member of the audience had waited over fifty years to hear and Annette said everyone in the audience had felt extremely emotional. She told me that Sharon had then finished by singing The Power of Love which she said was sung beautifully. It did seem like I missed out, but then I was needed by a friend first thing this morning, so I was pleased I was at home and able to help her.

It was an interesting weekend with mega highs and too many lows. Am I pleased I went?  Yes. Sam coming through and Jay’s demonstration were the highlights of my weekend.  Two fantastic experiences that I know I will never forget.  Just such a shame that it hadn’t been a little more comfortable and a little more organised!

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32) Legal Beagles

English: Public court room in Independence Hall

We all think we are right!  It’s so true. We all think we are right because we see everything from our perspective.  It is how we are.  We often find great difficulty in looking at a situation from someone elses point of view.  It is very challenging to try to put yourself in someone elses shoes, to look at the world the way they see it. I feel it is impossible, even no matter how hard we try, to truly appreciate what someone is going through, to actually feel their joy, their pain, their concerns. And yet, even though we can never completely understand what it is  like to be someone else, we somehow feel we have the right to judge them.

Many of us make judgements about people’s physical appearance.  We make comments about their  choice of clothes, hairstyle, weight etc.   Even if we don’t verbalise what we are thinking, most of us do still think it.  How many times have you seen someone and within a millisecond a thought rushes through your head about how that person looks?  It is a habit that is so easy to get into. Even worse we think we know how to dress them better than themselves!  How can we always be so sure?  I might never ever in a million years wear a pink leather mini-skirt with high heels and wear bright red lipstick – but who says that I am right?  My choice in clothes most probably looks as dull as dishwater to someone else.

Have you met a friend’s partner and immediately made a snap judgement about them?  Just a look, just one word, or the way they dress can be enough for your brain to warp into judgement mode.  Even the way someone speaks, their accent,  can lead us to make sweeping judgements that could be totally wrong!

Our magazines and newspapers are full of judgements about people in the public eye.  Reporters judge everything about people: their lives, their love lives,  finances, children,  homes, even their political views.  Unfortunately it is rarely objective, and usually biased to entice more readers to read all the latest gossip, no matter if the ‘victim’ is a pop singer, a politician or a member of the royal family.  All appear to be fair game.  Even countries are attacked in the press, their cultures, their traditions, their politics.  It is felt that we are able to judge anyone/any country  who/that does not do as we think they should, who does not comply with what we consider is normal or correct.

I enjoy listening to lively debates on the radio and it surprises me how often I change my mind as I carry on listening to different views.  To begin with I am sure that Mr ‘A’ is making perfect sense, then Mr ‘B’ will chip in with his remarks and I start thinking, well, actually that really does make sense, then listening to Mr ‘A’ respond, I am once again seeing and appreciating his point of view.  From listening to so many over the years I have come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to tell the right viewpoint from the wrong one.  Even to the point where I wonder at times if there always is a right or a wrong one! It all depends from which angle you are looking at it.  As an onlooker it can be almost impossible to make a decision of who is right, but if you are personally involved then it becomes even more difficult to be objective.

My husband had to complete jury service recently.  Although he couldn’t discuss the case with me, I knew he was finding it very difficult to make a judgement about the ‘accused’.  Some days he would come home and feel he had totally understood what had happened and would appear relaxed. On other days he would come home obviously agitated after further evidence had been submitted into court which threw a spanner in the works, and suddenly the case didn’t appear as black and white as it had a couple of days before.  In the final days of the trial it was evident that Simon was really struggling.  He is a fair-minded man and was so concerned that he would come to the wrong conclusion, that because of his judgement an innocent man may spend time in prison.  Then he would be worried that if he judged the man innocent, and he was actually guilty, that he would be walking free in society, and what could be the possible consequences of that.    After much debate the jury found the accused guilty and Simon said he was so pleased when his previous convictions were read out and he had carried out similar crimes several times before.  He felt that they had come to the right decision.  His relief when it was all over was amazing.  The experience had really brought home the massive responsibility that there is in making judgements. Goodness knows how I’d ever cope if I had to sit on a jury!!

I do wonder what makes someone decide to commit a crime.  I have no idea of the mindset or thought process that you would go through to plan to take part in something criminal.  I avoid arguments and conflict as much as possible but it has crossed my mind whether someone decides to be abusive to someone else, either physically or verbally, or if it just happens, almost beyond their  control.  I do however know that I am extremely fortunate that I am not them, but somehow I used to think I had the right to judge them, not that I would normally tell others what I was thinking, but in my head I would be making judgements.  What right did I possibly have to do that?

I was sitting quietly one day, thinking about what is right and what is wrong, when I received the following words from one of my writing guides.

Look kindly on your fellow-man

Do not judge too harshly

For where he walks you too may tread

And understand his pathway

Just a few lines, but I feel it is a such powerful  message.  I have  had these words run through my mind so many many times over the years.  When I catch myself making a judgement about someone, suddenly I’ll hear the words “Look kindly on your fellow-man, do not judge too harshly ….” I immediately try to consider where that person is in their life and always ask myself “Who am I to judge?”  I cannot possibly imagine what made them make their choices about their lifestyle, their behaviour.  I have not shared in their life and come to their conclusions. I try to accept others as they are, accept they have their own opinions and have their own roads to follow.

Of course I’m not talking about our formal legal systems, these have to be in place, and we accept that our society chooses people to make legal judgements.  That is totally different to the judgements we all make that I am talking about here.

It  also made me think about the soul choices we make we enter this incarnation.  We can’t all choose to be kind and thoughtful or we would not be able to learn what is right and what is wrong, how to behave with care and generosity towards others.  How tough it must be to live your life as one of those people who are always on the wrong side of our man-made laws. How tough to wake up in the morning and know in your heart that you have been cruel or mean.  We can’t all be the same, we are all unique in almost every way and I say thank goodness for that.  In our diversity we have literally hundreds of thousands of choices throughout our lives, and who should ever judge us for them?  Only ourselves.  My guides know that we are not saints, that we have our human foibles, that we will most likely always make judgements, I feel it is a rare person who never does.  But, if you do find yourself judging, please just think of the words I received, and try not to be too harsh!

19) Will we ever stop greed?

Ugandan anti-corruption sign

Almost wearily, and with more than a hint of despondency, I opened my topic for the day email.  At least I had the right intuitive thoughts, which were confirmed when I opened it, although I would much rather have been wrong.  Here it is: Why does corruption exist? Can it be stopped? What can bloggers do to help?

Another fantastic topic with a positive thought for the day ………….not! Come on guys, give us a break!  I had looked back over the years ‘blog a day’ ideas and there were so many that I thought would be fantastic to write about, which is why  I signed up to this crazy idea.   Please, for tomorrow, give us all something cheerful and uplifting to blog about.  PLEASE.

Back to todays ‘must do it, only because I said I would, blog’.

The very first word that springs to mind has to be greed.  In every society it seems that greed is one of the most prevalent emotions/traits, whatever you want to call it, that drives so many people.

With corruption, what is even worse, is that sometimes the perpetrator coerces the victim by a form of blackmail … if you don’t pay me, help me, support me, whatever…………. then I won’t …. give you the order, let you pass your exam, assist you in any way.

The awful truth is that corruption can take many forms.  In the classic sense I am sure that most of us think of countries where corruption is rife.  Where whole communities are run by people in power who only work because of the gains they can make through their corrupting regimes. More locally, in the UK, I am sure you’ve heard in the news where planning permission has been granted because of some financial gain for the planner from the builder.  I believe it is called colloquially, a back hander. It brings to mind so many negative ideas about the people in power.  Thats the whole crux of the matter. Power.  Give anyone a little power and for some they will use it wisely, for the betterment of others, but the weaker characters, and I do firmly believe they are weak, use that power to gain control and use  people to give themselves an advantage.

I have, in a small way, personal experience of corruption, and even now after several years, it still makes me angry.

I was the financial director of  a business for many years, and fortunately I was never asked, and certainly never offered, to give an incentive to any of our customers.  We endeavoured to offer the best quality products and service at competitive prices. Our reputation grew and the company did well.  However, after twenty years we  made the monumental decision to sell our business because of my ill-health. We were advised to build a solid management team who were to stay in place after the sale.  We employed a sales director who had previously worked for a large American organisation. We had known him for several years, he had worldwide contacts and an excellent reputation in our industry.

Within a few months of his arrival at our company he came to me with a good-sized order from a new customer.  I thought nothing of it, and just assumed that our prices and products had obviously been acceptable to the client.  However, much to my absolute astonishment, a few days later the sales director came to see me with a claim for a receipt he had.  He wanted me to pay him for a personal computer. I was perplexed. Why on earth would I do that?  He explained that he had only received the order from the new customer because he had agreed to give him a personal computer! I was stunned and appalled, I immediately said that the customer could take back his order and that we did not work like that.  The sales director informed me, in the most condescending manner, that in ‘real’ business, that’s the way the world worked.  I stuck to my guns and refused to budge. I refused the order from the client.  Every part of me wanted to sack the sales director on the spot.  His way of working was against every thread of my being.  How could we tolerate such behaviour in our business?  Also, I wondered,  what had he personally gained from this transaction?  I never did find out.

I was though stuck in a moral dilemma.  At that very time we were in the final stages of selling  and the prospective purchasers would not have approved of my terminating this mans employment, almost no matter what the circumstances.  They had insisted that in buying the company they would also be employing all the well-trained and valued staff we had, including the well oiled management team.

In the final days of the company sale, new employment contracts were issued to key personnel, including the sales director. They had all been aware of the impending sale for several months and we had ensured that the terms of their new contracts were as good, if not better, than their current ones.  I was flabbergasted when on the way to a pivotal meeting he rang me on my mobile.  He said he would refuse to sign the new contract unless we made it worth his while!  To begin with I thought he was joking but it became evident he was not.  A massive part of me just wanted to tell him not to bother to sign it and to call off the sale, but it had taken over a year to get to this point, my health was appalling and we were only three days away from completion.  Against everything that I had ever believed in we agreed to pay him a substantial amount of money to sign his contract.  The company was sold and ironically within three months he had left, to set up his own business.   I do wonder how much bribery, corruption and blackmail he has used or been involved with to enable his business to grow. How does he sleep at night? Does he have a conscience?

So, how do we, how does anyone, stop it?  There are new laws … the anti-bribery laws were put in place in April 2010 in the UK, but I wonder how easy it will be to apply them. How can blogging help with this?  Would this be a name and shame type of blog?  I can see this could be extremely dangerous in many circumstances and it is also far too easy for people who hold a grudge against someone to use a public blog to cause an innocent person possible irrevocable harm.

Sadly, very sadly, I think there always will be greedy people.  People who think that they have found a way to make easy money, no matter the cost to others. People who want their own way, to go against laws and legislation by offering to pay officials. Are they here in our lives to give us lessons to overcome?  All we can do, even if only in a small way, is to hope that people become enlightened to a new way of life, a way that shows that materialism is not  important in the huge scheme of life.

18) The Perfect Society

Well yesterday was day one  of  ‘blog a day’.  I thought it was a bit of a tough call, trying to come up with a blog about naming a currency.  However, today, wow, the guys at WordPress have surpassed themselves.

"We, the people" iPhone Wallpaper

Some kind soul decided that nothing would be better than to confound us daily bloggers with this wonderful exciting topic:  Explain the difference between socialism, communism and anarchy.

My first thought was can it get any more difficult or dull?  Which saddo is behind these daily blog ideas?  But, the more I pondered on this, the more I came to realise that I’m quite a politically minded woman with some fairly strong views.

It’s difficult to be objective about different political ideologies when I have only ever lived my life in a capitalist society.  I can look up socialism, communism and anarchy on the net.  But, does it really give a true interpretation of life under their rules? I suspect not.

I live in a capitalist country, and if you look up capitalism it sounds pretty good. It is supposed to be a ruling system that encourages an individuals economic growth. From that growth the idea is that we individuals can enjoy enormous freedom in all areas of our lives.  But, how true is that statement? How many people truly have the opportunity to enhance their lives just through their own volition? I have lived for well over 50 years and I know very few people who have been in a position to use their talents to make major improvements in their lives, or the lives of their families. I know I am generalizing, but, it appears to me that those in power tend to have had the best opportunities from the very beginning of their lives.  I find it is rare that someone from a disadvantaged background has exactly the same opportunities as one from n privileged one.

One of my friends and I have often discussed our society. We both feel a great sadness when we realise that at its core tends to be an overwhelming desire for more and more materialistic trappings, more consumerism, more consumption, rather than working towards a fairer society which looks after its more vulnerable.

It seems crazy to me that someone who chooses a career of care, for example, nursing, is paid far far less than those in the public eye.   Here in the UK we have ambulance drivers and firemen who cannot afford to buy the most basic homes for their families.  These are people who work tirelessly to help others.  If you look at our celebrity culture in the west, it appears that anyone who can sing, act, or kick a ball around a football field, can earn vast amounts of money.  Even those who are celebrities, just because they have been on a reality show, earn huge amounts  compared to people who are employed as the backbones of our society. Surely that just shows how capitalism has failed.

Now, if you then consider living under communist rule, from our western capitalistic viewpoint, everyone in a communistic society should be paid the same. We gather they should live in standard accommodation and expect the same levels of education, healthcare etc.  I wonder how true that is?  It sounds like utopia until you realise that some people are hard workers and others are clearly not.  Some are highly intelligent, some are not.  How would you feel if you worked exceptionally hard and were paid the same, had the same standards of living and lifestyle as someone who shirked as much as possible?  What would be your motivation to study or enhance your skills? How would you feel if you felt that no matter how hard you tried you could not improve your life? My overwhelming feeling  is one of personal imprisonment.

My favourite aunt was a staunch promoter of socialism.  She felt the ethos embodied total fairness and equality for all. A society where the working classes and minority groups are considered worthy.  A constitution that rules for a fair distribution of wealth. She was dismayed at the lack of support for socialism by the ruling classes. How easy would it be for those wealthy in the capitalist countries to agree to re-distribute some of their wealth? I would say nigh on an impossibility.

Most people would think that anarchy means that there is no order, no rules, no governing body. However, looking at this from a totally different viewpoint, you might even think that it could actually work.  Instead of a centralised government, a country run with pure anarchistic rules, offers more of a collaborative system whereby all citizens have to be responsible and be able to compromise to achieve what is best for everyone.  It is almost like a series of local committees which all come together for the greater good.   The community itself would set its own standards for moral values, much like a family does now.  Was this the type of rule that was prevalent in the tribes of the Native Americans or in deepest Africa? Possibly.

I do believe there is not one perfect solution, not ‘one size fits all’ political constitution.  If we were all born with the same capabilities, the same intelligence, the same desires, it would be so easy.  We are not a planet of robots.  That is the problem.  We all have our own individual views, which is what makes us who we are.

I sincerely hope that one day,  throughout the world, the average Jo, the backbones of our societies, the vulnerable, the much talked about but seldom heard, silent majority, will be heard, will be considered worthy, will be able to enjoy a good standard of living.

If mankind could all just live by this one rule:  ‘treat others the way you would like to be treated‘ and that was carried throughout society,  from local councils right through to our world governments, wow, now that would be a perfect society.

16) I’m going to post a blog a day!

Inspirational Barnstar

WordPress have this wonderful idea – Post a Blog a Day!  They even give you a nice little intro that you can copy and post to your blog – but of course, when I tried, it refused to paste, so here is my version:

Having weaved my way around the WordPress site, trying to glean tips for the a new blogger, I somehow came across what is termed The Daily Post.  Its is full of inspiring ideas to help us bloggers blog a little more.  To begin with we have to add widgets and tags and things, some of which I find more than a little formidable.  I have read, re-read and read again the easy to use instructions, and as the intelligent woman I still try to consider I am, I find I am still none the wiser.

I have, as instructed,  pointed my mouse at the widget picture and clicked and then gone backwards and forwards to my blog ‘dashboard’ (that’s the technical word for the technical background bit of my blog, a bit like an engine for a car) and clicked here and there and have still found I haven’t got the widget I need.  It’s so much like my car, I know where the pedals are and the steering wheel, but put me under the bonnet and I have no idea what is what! I have learnt more about tags in the last couple of weeks, but I’m not quite sure of the difference between a tag and a category, so I always end up with a mixture of the two.  My ever helpful husband, advised me to keep a list of tags and categories on my desktop so that it would be easy for me to find for future use.  Hmmm, I’m sure it would be if I knew where on earth my computer had saved them.  I’ve made several lists of tags and categories now and can never find them again.  There must be a mass of lists somewhere in my laptop that I’m sure one day will come to light, but for the moment at least they are very much hidden.

So, to get back to this wonderful innovative idea of ‘post a blog a day’.  The challenge is to find inspiration from ideas that the Daily Post will give us bloggers, and then be able to write about it.  To me it sounds very much like a class I took with the Accolade Academy in Margam, Wales, with the most wonderful spiritual tutor, Tony Stockwell.

He had the bright idea that each of us would choose a random word and then someone in the class would have to talk about it for at least five minutes.  You couldn’t prepare this talk, or do any kind of background research, it had to be totally off the cuff and ideally inspired by spirit.  We all had to have a go, and I must say it was good fun once you get over the ‘I’m sounding like a total idiot’ phase.   The problem was, that unknown to us students, Tony was walking around the class listening in and was deciding who he would choose to demonstrate inspired speaking to the whole course on the final night.  He walked up to me with a big smile on his face and told me I was going to be one of his chosen students!  It was more than a little daunting, he told us that we could talk about absolutely any word at all, for at least five minutes.

The other classes on the course also had students that had been chosen by their tutors and the evening before the ‘performance’ I could see everyone busily writing notes and discussing their ideas.  I thought I must have the wrong idea, because I had not prepared anything at all.  I guessed that if it was supposed to be inspired then you should leave it to spirit and trust them to inspire you. I went to bed that night concerned that maybe I should have spent the evening in preparation instead of chatting socially with friends.  I spoke to Tony the next morning and asked him if I had got it wrong. He laughed and said, no, it was supposed to be inspired and no preparation was necessary.

In a way that sounded too easy and too terrifying all at the same time.  The whole day my tummy was full of butterflies, not gently fluttering away, no, these butterflies had boots on and were stampeding around, and I was dreading the moment I would be called to talk.  As we all took our seats I thought that I would feel better once I had seen a few others give their talks, but little did I know that I was to be called up first!  Looking back though it is a bit like having a dentists appointment first thing in the morning.  You get it over and done with and can then get on with enjoying your day.

I had been visibly shaking at the thought of standing up in front of all these people, my stomach was churning, my mouth was dry and my palms were sweaty. Amazingly as soon as my name was called and I walked to the front, a feeling of calm came over me.  I still had no idea what I was going to talk about.  There was a stand by the side of me with a description of all that Accolade Academy offers its students.  “Understanding your Awareness”, was one of the phrases that caught my eye.  Suddenly I was off, chatting about awareness.  I don’t know how long I spoke for, and to be honest I can barely remember what I said, but I did feel it flowed and was certainly inspired.  Phew, was I pleased when I could sit down.

So, I am going to try to approach this ‘blog a day’ challenge in exactly the same way.   All I have to do is trust that spirit will inspire me …. they have never let me down yet!

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