Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Goodbye Kitty

Curled up forever in my toasty-warm heart...

I was there the moment Itchy died, on Midsummer’s Eve, fifteen years ago, and I was there for his twin sister, Scratchy, earlier this evening, when the vet injected her with anaesthetic, prior to administering the heart-stopper medication.

She was calm and didn’t struggle or seem disturbed in any way. I looked into her eyes and told her I loved her – and I love her, oh gosh – and then her eyes weren’t seeing me any more, and never will again.

My beautiful little girl. I am typing this with tears streaming down my face. It was the right decision, because she was so weak and frail and ill… but, damn, it hurts so much to know that she’s dead. Gone. No more purrs or head-butts or tail slinking around my lower leg as she brushes past.

I explain how I first met her, along with her brother, in my A Tale of Two Kitties blog. She’s been a constant source of love since we were introduced, when she was an inquisitive kitten of eight weeks old. I’m coming up to 40 and she’s been with me since my early 20s – sixteen-and-a-half years… 82 cat years. She is such a massive, massive part of my life… such an important part of my family… and I just watched the light go out of her eyes.

Scratchy (left) and Itchy

Fierce kitties!

Titan, Scratchy & Orion

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Becoming a Dreamsmith

Within reason, I believe we’re all capable of making our dreams come true. And I say within reason not to put a ceiling on our ambitions, but because if our dream was to fly a giant Neapolitan ice-cream cone into the Sun, or become the first person to invent time travel and kill Hitler, then – however noble the notion – that would be a poor investment of our precious creative energy and quite silly, to boot.

The sky’s far from the limit when you consider more realistic dreams people strive to manifest. Realistic doesn’t mean the fulfilment of these objectives can’t be incredible. Men have stood on the surface of the Moon. Out there on this planet of ours, right now, someone will be dreaming of being the first person to set foot on Mars… and they’ll do it, with their whole home world watching in awe.

Andy Murray dreamed of winning Wimbledon, and he did it. It’s taken a lifetime of gritted determination and dedication to get him into the position of lifting that coveted trophy, and through that he’s achieved what no other person in all of living humanity could achieve this year. All because he turned his dreams into a plan and shaped his life the way he wanted it to be.

I believe we all have the capability to be Dreamsmiths – to be able to forge the lives we want to live, rather than feel we have to accept someone else’s pre-fabricated expectation of what we should and shouldn’t do with our days of human consciousness. (Again, within reason… it’s naughty to rob banks with guns, for example, and I think it’s best just to accept that there are some rules that we really should abide by, unless we want total anarchy.)

One of my pretentious quotes is thus:

“Turn your dreams into plans, but don't allow your plans to turn into dreams.”

I doubt there’s a human alive who’s reached 21 without seeing at least a single plan degrade back into a mere dream, but I think the above is a good rule, when you apply a present perspective. The past is gone and the future doesn’t exist, so even if you’ve fumbled and dropped dozens of dreams over the years, it doesn’t mean you can’t give your all to making this next one happen.

And, paradoxically, because the future doesn’t exist, we have the power, still, to bend the Universe around us, so when the moment comes and we step into that perceived future, we’ll find true satisfaction there of a job well done. That moment may not be exactly how we imagined it, but it would be a damn site different if we hadn’t toiled with blood, sweat and tears to get there.

Is there really any truly valid reason why all of us shouldn’t be following our dreams?

Perhaps we give up on them too early? Or maybe we set them aside and get on with running the rat race or having children, then come back years later to find them mouldy and broken? When the broken dreams start stacking up, I guess we become weary of investing our hearts in such pursuits again, and we stop dreaming altogether.

As with the case of world-class, professional athletes or prospective astronauts, it takes enormous self-discipline to achieve their dreams, but what I find interesting about that is we also have that same ability of self-discipline, as part of our hard-wiring.

I’m rubbish at self-discipline, but, sometimes, I can do it like a pro. That the times I do it like a pro are in a poor negative ratio to the procrastinating, frustrated, brain-aching moments is undoubtedly the biggest productivity issue I have in my attempts to squeeze words out of my head and into the Interlands.

But understanding that I can sometimes do it allows me to see that the only thing stopping me from doing it whenever needed is my damn ego and all the crazy wiring in my brain, which, through present awareness, I’m starting to unravel and connect back to the right places.

I imagine many people reading have experienced or are experiencing a similar confusion in executing their dreams. I think it’s called ‘being human’.

Now, more than ever, I need to make my dreams come true, and I want to write about it in a way that will inspire others, because I don’t have a super-brain or any special mental or supernatural powers, and if I can tip the action to procrastination scale far enough to showcase a burst of creative sunshine that sustains and lights the path to my new way of life, then I really do believe anyone can achieve the similar results and transformations, respective to their own lives and ambitions.

With that, I’d like to invite others to join me in this drive of renewed determination and resolve to change our lives for the better! Um… we can call ourselves The Dreamsmiths, and maybe I’ll have some t-shirts printed and posted out as a rubbish reward for reaching our targets and fulfilling our dreams? We could have a special handshake, too!

I think sometimes it helps to bolster our intent by just putting it out there and letting the world know what we want, and that we’re going to get it. And then, when that initial enthusiasm evaporates - and, for example, we’d rather stay in and watch TV, with a box of donuts, than go out for that brisk walk we promised ourselves, with the objective of having those entirely doable rock-hard abs next summer - we can use the public humiliation and goading of our dear friends as a spur to get back into the zone and attack our objectives.

So, if you want to share your dreams in the comments on this blog, please feel free to do so – although, remember, there may be children reading, so nothing weird! We can come back to it over the course of the next year and congratulate ourselves for doing just (about) as we planned, offering encouragement to each other in the meantime.

Here are a few of my dreams to kick it off…

My big dream is to provide instantly engaging, entertaining video, audio and written material to people who are in the first steps of getting help for problems with depression. I’m sure I share this experience with many, but when you go to your local doctor with such concerns, it seems the best they can do is throw you a prescription for antidepressants and, but not always, arrange for you to see a counsellor/psychologist/community psychiatric nurse.

The problem here is that it takes up to two months for the tablets to kick in, and the appointment with the shrinks will likely take around the same time to arrange, if not longer, so you basically leave the surgery with the exact same issue you went in with, except, perhaps, for a grain of hope in finally doing something about it.

What I want to do is have material available immediately to these people, directing them to tools and techniques they can use to bring a little light to their darkness, when they need it most. It can be a grim moment, stepping out of a doctors’ surgery and realising you’re carrying the same weight of mental shrapnel as before, and two months more of that perceived pain may seem an unbearable, lonely ordeal. It’s a dangerous time.

I’m sure this plan would save lives, if I could do it widespread, even internationally. It wouldn’t save everyone who considered and then edged to the brink of suicide, but it would save some, and that would make all and every effort towards achieving this dream very definitely worth it.

Of course, there’s a great deal of work to be done to even have a chance of forging this dream, but I’ve already started. However messy my grand plan may appear to others, I have it all mapped out… well, bits of it.

Another of my dreams, perhaps in years to come when even my shaved hair looks grey, I’d like to run a refuge in the Scottish mountains, for people who just simply need a break from their lives and an opportunity to find or rediscover the light of peace inside them.

I’m sure many people in mental institutions around the world would be far better treated in such a place of tranquillity – speaking with experience as someone who has had two short stays in such establishments, though on a voluntary basis and without the need to wear the 'special tuxedo'. You’re ignored for days and fed your meds, and, apart from the TV, there’s barely any mental stimulation at all. Perhaps (and it’s very possible that) things have changed in the two decades since I visited, but most people I met were certainly not mad… just so damn tired of the negative dialogue in their own minds.

However, since I can’t control government policy on mental health affairs, I will go for one big, friendly, welcoming, open house – a converted hotel or farm – under a mountain, on the edge of a loch, where people can just let go of the world outside the glen and concentrate on their own souls and their own healing for once. I’d employ staff with skills in Reiki, reflexology and whateverelseology that was beneficial to the calm in the visitors’ minds. Oh… and definitely make sure a few of them were great with the guitar, so they could rock it around the camp fire at the end of an easy day’s therapy and scenery bathing.

My more immediate dream is to give my Mum a proper funeral. We had only a small ceremony at her cremation, here in Carlisle, but it was planned that she’d have her ashes scattered in Birkenhead, Merseyside, where she was born and brought up. Sadly, and maddeningly, at the time, there were some issues of ‘family politics’ which scuppered the deal, and we – her children – couldn’t afford to cover the costs. We just about covered the cremation.

There are still many people who want to say their final goodbye to my Mum, and I know there will be masses of people at the service, when it happens. She was and is well loved. Until her ashes are scattered over the graves of her parents – as she always told us she wanted – it’s always going to be painful, unfinished business. The ashes are currently in a plastic tub, like you get muscle-building protein powder in, and that tub is inside an offensively bright gift bag. It gets me every time when I look at it. It doesn’t give me the creeps… it fills me with regret, and I don’t usually do regret.

My closing dream is to actually get off my arse and get fit. Again, if I can do this, there must be so few other people in the world who have a genuine excuse not to do the same, because I’m 39 and I’ve been up and down and up in weight for literally as long as I can remember. Now, I want body, mind, heart and soul to resonate with the same frequency, so I’m going to rewire a whole new ethos of physical care, including drastic measures such as stopping eating cheese sandwiches altogether.

Those are my plans. Some will take longer than others and probably happen at just the right time, but they’re the focus of my intent, and I firmly believe I can forge these dreams into substance, whilst, at the same time, enjoying all the life that bubbles my way in between.

And I really do hope people will jeer me in the street and online if it seems like I’m starting to drift off course or stall with my plans. Sometimes, all it takes is a good jeer to get things moving again.

Congratulations, by the way, if you’ve got to the end of this blog. That’s the sort of stamina Murray used to take the title at Wimbledon! You’ve already taken your first step to a better, determination-driven life! ;-)

Non-invasive hugs,

Les x